The most expensive work of art created by an African American artist “Untitled” sold for $110.5 million in 2017 and was created by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Hip-Hop mogul Diddy purchased the most expensive work of art created by a living African American artist when he bought Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” painting for $21.1 million. Even Jay-Z advised the culture to invest in art in order to set our future generations up with financial security. We could invest in art that could pay off in the future while simultaneously bringing value to Black art in the mainstream market.
Why This Matters: In the last couple of years, art museums have dedicated approximately 8 percent of all their exhibitions to the works of African American artists. The same percentage represents the number of Black artists that are shown by New York City galleries. Having a lack of representation for artists is one thing, but this could be due to the lack of diversity behind the scenes. Only 4 percent of museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders are African American. The remaining representation of Black people are in security, facilities, finance or HR positions.
In the last couple of years, art museums have dedicated approximately 8 percent of all their exhibitions to the works of African American artists
In 2016, CUNY conducted some research to find that of the 1,300 artists represented by New York City’s 45 commercial art galleries, 80.5 percent of the artists are white. If we just look at U.S. artists, that percentage goes up to 88.1 percent. There is a dire need for diversity in gallery ownerships and exhibition projects, but the support for the creative spaces need to be evident.
The challenge to be a part of the global art scene forces many Black artists to focus their efforts on social media. Additionally, art enthusiasts are then able to get exposure to artists and directly purchase works without the bureaucracy of the industry. On Instagram you can access more than 143 million posts with the hashtag “#artist”, 542 million with #art, 82.7 million with #artwork and 2.6 million with #blackart. This online creative freedom allows Black artists to make a living while providing the Black community with access to creative property.
Situational Awareness: The U.S. contains the wealthiest art collectors in the world and the most art buyers worldwide, holding the highest global share in the auction market at 38 percent. The second-largest market share belongs to China at 29 percent as of 2018. The art world doesn’t only consist of recognition from the artist/art collector transaction, but also the social impact in society through the institutions of museums, public exhibitions and art galleries. Next time you browse in an art gallery or scroll through images of dope paintings on Instagram, consider your financial portfolio and the preservation of our culture.