Gently, gently. Handle that piece of original African American art hanging over your sofa with care. If two recent major sales of black art are any indication, today’s family memento could be worth big bucks one day.
More than $2 million was recently paid for the Barnett/Aden collection of African American artwork. The purchase, by Black Entertainment Television (No. 7 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list) is reportedly the largest sale of African American art recorded. The collection contains over 170 works created between 1800 and 1984 by artists such as Henry Tanner, Jacob Lawrence and Richard Dempsy. BET Chief Executive Robert Johnson, says the collection will go on a national tour this year before being permanently showcased in Washington, D.C., at the company’s headquarters.
That sale followed another major purchase of African American art just weeks earlier. Bank of America, formerly NationsBank, purchased the Hewitt collection with some 58 pieces from the private collection of John and Vivian Hewitt, which included renowned works such as The Card Players by Hale Woodruff and Morning Ritual by Romare Bearden. The collection had been offered for sale at $880,000. The final sale price was not released.
Earnest Bonner, president of Mosadi’s, a black art gallery in Denver, brokered the sale of the Barnett/Aden collection. Bonner feels the two large purchases point to “a growing consciousness of African American art. Since The Cosby Show in the early 1980s, there’s been a resurgence of everything black-television, movies, books-and art is just a part of that.”
Bonner says both purchases indicate that African American art is becoming an appreciable asset in the eyes of collectors and investors. “It’s further proof of the growing trend in the art world in recognizing the unique beauty and value of Africa American art as a part of our national heritage.”