Collecting African American Art
May 29, 2009
Dr. Walter O. Evans, named one of 'America's Top 100 Collectors' by Art & Antiques magazine in 2006, spoke the other night as part of the Collectors' Roundtable series on "Collecting outside the Canon." He began in 1979, when he acquired a portfolio of serigraphs by Jacob Lawrence entitled The Legend of John Brown. Since then his collection has grown to more than 500 paintings, sculptures, and photographs representing the works of both nineteenth century and contemporary African American artists, including Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, Edward Bannister, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Duncanson, Richard Hunt, William H. Johnson, Edmonia Lewis, Horace Pippin, Henry O. Tanner, Charles White, and many others.
Back when Dr. Evans started collecting, he told us, if Bill Cosby didn’t want a work that was for sale, it was Dr. Evans's. That's because nobody was collecting African American art then. Now it’s challenging even for the wealthiest of collectors to acquire works by known African American artists.
So where’s the beginning collector to start today? Throughout the Collectors’ Roundtable series, we’ve heard the advice to start with emerging artists while they’re still affordable. What’s your strategy? We’d love to hear the stories behind your art collections.
- African American Art, Dr. Walter O. Evans, African American Artist, American Art,
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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