Dr. C. Siddha Webber - From the Archives

Reposted for Tony Smith

"Art is Business"

Dr. C. Siddha Webber was a Chicago based muralist, poet, musician, naprapath, and theologian who has been making art and poetry in Chicago for over 50 years. This footage is from an interview with him for my thesis on the Black Arts movement and the Wall of Respect. I am honored to have known him.

Tony Smith

Merging Tactical Urbanism with public works

Robert Steuteville is the editor of Public Square: A CNU Journal and senior communications adviser for the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Merging Tactical Urbanism with public works
The City of Burlington, Vermont, has initiated an innovative, flexible streetscape improvement program that saves money and time and is more responsive to the community.


Burlington's interest in bike-walk issues goes back decades, at least to when Bernie Sanders was mayor when his administration focused on the revitalization of downtown and the waterfront in the 1980s—working with Republicans and Democrats at the start of his political career. The city of 42,000 on Lake Champlain, home to the University of Vermont, has long employed a 30-day pilot program to test public works projects. This program was used in closing the first block to traffic for what is now the Church Street Marketplace.

It makes sense that when Burlington adopted its first-ever Bike-Walk Plan in 2017, implementation would go hand-in-hand with Tactical Urbanism. With the motto "short-term action for long-term change," Tactical Urbanism is all about testing changes to the public realm to improve the experience of pedestrians and cyclists—often using less expensive, flexible materials.

Burlington is now refining a tactical approach to bike-walk streetscape alterations that cost about a quarter of a full-scale street rebuilding­—and can be implemented much faster. "We felt this was the logical next step," says Nicole Losch, a senior planner with the Department of Public Works.

In a year and a half since the plan was adopted, Burlington has built a Neighborhood Greenway in the Old North End neighborhood to provide a slow-speed cycling route stretching more than a mile from the university campus to a lakefront park. The Greenway slows traffic through curb extensions and mid-block pinch points, using materials that are easy to move and adjust. The city has also made improvements on a five-way intersection in the city's South End, installed a protected bike lane on Church Street near two schools, and installed curb extensions and other changes to intersections in downtown locations.

The usual streetscape change involves a lengthy planning process, engineering drawings, funding, paving, and construction—and then you find out how well it works. This can take years, and consequently, few projects are implemented. Burlington has replaced that method with a four-step incremental process. First, a week-long tactical demonstration project can be initiated by citizens. Next, the 30-day pilot project can be undertaken by Public Works. The next step is a Quick Build project, designed to last one to five years. Permanent street changes involving new pavement are the final step—after a project has been adjusted and tested to work out the kinks. Most of the last year and a half changes have been completed through the Quick Build program, which involves materials that can be tested and moved—and even removed seasonally if difficulties arise in Burlington's long winters. The city has adopted its own Quick Build Design + Materials guide that systemizes the approach. "I recommend that other cities try something similar," says Losch.

Burlington hired Street Plans Collaborative to do the Bike Walk comprehensive plan. Principals Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia are known as Tactical Urbanism thought leaders—they have written a book and numerous other publications on the subject. The collaboration led to the city adopting the community demonstration project approach, giving residents a way to implement short-term streetscape projects. The town can only complete so many projects a year. If the city can't get to the project neighbors want, the residents can apply for a demonstration and build it themselves. "If successful, it will be a priority the next year," says Losch.

The flexible Quick Build program is another innovation. "We wanted it to be a one-stop shop, outlining the materials that could be used, navigating the permit process, and working with neighbors," says Losch.

The Quick Build program in Burlington. Source: Street Plans Collaborative
The North End greenway meanders east-west along mostly low-volume neighborhood streets. The city is still formally gathering data on its success. "Anecdotally, we've heard it is working," she says. "It is a better route than they would have expected and really convenient, especially by bike." No changes were made to the pavement, which accounts for the low cost and flexibility. Curb extensions that narrow the street and reduce crossing distances are marked by paint, large planters, and "low, flexible bollards" that can be shifted in their position. During winter, when Burlington gets a lot of snow, the plantings are removed and replaced the following spring.

How is it working for public works employees responsible for snow removal and maintenance? "We are fortunate to have a pretty open-minded team that recognizes that the city is growing differently," says Losch. "The projects benefit the community, although they are not making the Public Works jobs easier. We are training the drivers to anticipate the changes before the snow flies and working with the planners and the street maintenance team on the projects."

Burlington's long winters are an additional advantage to the Quick Build program. There's the option of removing part or all of a project and re-installing it in the spring. Due to winter challenges and lower seasonal use, the city is considering a seasonal choice for a protected bike lane. That option is only possible because of the flexible material pallet of Quick Build.

The City of Burlington has used the Quick Build Design + Materials Standards to install five pedestrian, bicycle, and public space projects, most notably the 1.25-mile Greenway, connecting the campus to the waterfront. The Old North End Greenway is an interim design that can be adjusted easily depending on observed function and utility. There is no change to the street section, new pavement, or permanent plantings, yet the project has dramatically changed the streetscape.

Nathaniel McLin was a Chicago-based Art Critic - From the Archives

This blog post is in remembrance of a supporter of the Phantom Gallery Chicago and was my advisor. He was a fixture at gallery openings, exhibits and art lectures, Mr. McLin, 55, died Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010.

Nathaniel McLin, who grew up in a family of respected musicians, promoted local African-American artists who didn't get the attention he felt they deserved and hosted a radio program for 25 years devoted to art. Nathaniel was a support of the Phantom Gallery Chicago Network, he shared so much of his intellectual property with myself and fellow artists. He was the curator for the Phantom Gallery Chicago 2009 PostProduction Exhibit, hosted at the Murphy Hill Gallery, featuring artists Fredrick Owens and Everett Williams. The curatorial discussion was carried on amongst curators: Owens, Williams, Patti, Hill, and moderated by Alpha Bruton.

Nathaniel McLin was a Chicago-based art critic who's been published in numerous publications and frequently wrote for Paint magazine.

He also hosted a radio show called “The Art Museum of Chicago” on WHPK 88.5 FM in Chicago. Nathaniel also contributed an essay for Kerry James Marshall’s catalog One True Thing: Meditations on Black Aesthetics. Nathaniel McLin made a comment on Joyce Owens: Artist on Art concerning art critics and getting reviews published:
Nat McLin featured ranter, began to sing his rant for the  RantAthon fundraiser at LBP. 

“I would say as an art critic it is very difficult to get editors to publish a review of an artist/home studio show. 
Editors prefer to publish reviews of the artist in third party venues. Also, most of the major organizations that promote artists on their web sites and lists refuse to deal with artist cooperatives. I found I will hurt my career by pushing artists that are not in the gallery system. Every time I try to write about a local artist that is not a recent MFA grad following a trendy movement I risk being cut off from that publication permanently.”

Reference Links:

Curator Carole Frances Lung, KO Enterprise 2019 Fellowship Award

"Art is Business"
Curator Carole Frances Lung, KO Enterprise
 Curator Carole Frances Lung, KO Enterprise at Labor Union Hall 07, SAIC- has Carole Frances Lung (BFA 2005, MFA 2007) was among the recipients of the United States Artists  (USA) 2019 Fellowship Award grants up to $50,000 in unrestricted funds to artists. In addition, social practice and performance artist Lung received an award in the craft category. Each year, USA fellowships are given to the most compelling artists working and living in the United States, in all disciplines, at every stage of their career.

Carole at the Chicago Public Library in Austin, where she had her installation KO Enterprise

With her SAIC Academic Advisor. 
The Sewing Rebellion is an economic tactic for change in the apparel industry.

The Sewing Rebellion is a free workshop, which began @ Mess Hall in Chicago Fall of 2006. It was hosted at Mess Hall for one year before becoming itinerant in May 2007. Hosted by Frau Fiber and her army of Faux Frau's, the Sewing Rebellion hosts monthly workshops at the ILGWU, Long Beach Main Library, Boulder Public Library, and pop-up actions take place around the country as requested.

Participants of the Sewing Rebellion are invited to emancipate themselves from the global garment industry by learning how to alter, amend,  and make their own garments and accessories! The Sewing Rebellion distributes knowledge of the garment industry, pattern making, and sewing, encouraging the reuse, renovation, and recycling of existing garments and textiles to create unique items tailored to individual tastes and body shapes.

A Tribute to Tamasha Williamson- From the Archives

"Art is Business" From the Phantom Gallery Chicago Archives,  
A Special Tribute for Tamasha Thembi Akua Williamson
Sunrise: July 2, 1975 - Sunset: September 4, 2016 RIP

Tamasha Williamson as a moderator for a panel discussion at the
Switching Station Artist Lofts in East Garfield Park, CAM 2007.

Featured artist Chicago Artist Month, installation at the Switching Station Artist Lofts. 

Representing the voice of reason and expressing her ideology and conceptual art practice.
"If the ability to be self-critical is a marker of a culture’s strength and maturity, then the artists presented in the exhibition “Disinhibition” blow a fresh breath of confidence into the conversation around contemporary African-American art. Curated by HPAC’s Blake Bradford, the exhibition brings together the work of emerging and one well-established artist who uses provocative humor to illuminate uncomfortable truths. The attitude can be summarized as “political correctness and solidarity be damned! Here is the truth!” Heavy on irony and anger, many of the works team with frustrated despair with both white racism and the less savory aspects of black culture. 
The predominant strategy is an illustration by the use of telling juxtapositions. Tamasha Williamson’s drawing series “It Is isn't It? The African-American Vernacular and the King’s English: Validation v. Degradation (Articulate)” collages loaded words and phrases such as “bling” with loaded imagery such as slave shackles and bullets. Blake Bradford

Tamasha designed the Phantom's postcard for the 2008 fundraiser at LBP, she was a graphic artist.

 It Is…Ain’t It? African-American Vernacular and the King’s English: Validation v. Degradation (Articulate), 2007 Graphite On Paper 24 X 36 © Tamasha Williamson

Tamasha Williamson

Profile  |  Artworks  |  Exhibitions  |  Network  |  Comments



 Little Black Pearl,
 NEIU Fine Arts Center Gallery - Northeastern Illinois University 

NEIU Fine Arts Center 

Daphne Burgess Thoughts on Utilizing Art as an Engagement for Change

"Art is Business"10/04 by Phantom Gallery Chicago Network | Visual Arts

Daphne Burgess Thoughts on Utilizing Art as an Engagement for Change 10/04 by Phantom Gallery Chicago Network | Visual Arts:

Daphne Burgess is an African American artist living and working in the Sacramento region. Her work has been shown in galleries and exhibitions including the Valley Artists Sculpture Exhibition, Sojourner Truth Art Museum, 1001 Del Paso Works, SMUD Gallery, Sacramento State University, Brickhouse Gallery, Crocker Art Museum, the African American Museum and Library in Oakland and the African American Historical and Cultural Museum in Fresno.

She worked at the Crocker Art Museum as Project Manager for Block by Block, as well as various non-profit organizations like the Roberts Family Development Center and Sojourner Truth Art Museum, increasing access to art in diverse communities. Daphne has been lead artist for several grant-funded programs through the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission including Young Enterprising Artists, Neighborhood Arts Program, Arts in Education Outreach, Artscapes, and the Community Arts Program.

Milton Bowen and Daphne Burgess, artist and partners 

Burgess's artwork is an exploration of ideas, including family, love, and self-image. Her passed artwork exhibited a more traditional and representational style, but her current work shows a more whimsical style. The use of abstracted figures, bold colors, and a playful tone characterize her artwork while tackling personal, social and universal themes including love/hate, the African American family and culture, and music.

Investigation: Thoughts on utilizing art as an engagement for change? Public Participatory Art Projects Allow the Public to Collaborate.

Panel conversation, Are Black Women Loud, facilitate by Daphne Burgess 2013.

Sunday Salon Series- Dionne Victoria

"Art is Business" MESSAGE FROM HOST
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.

Join the Phantom Gallery Chicago for our Sunday Salon Series on October 6, 2019,  as we celebrate an installation by Dionne Victoria 3 pm - 6 pm.

Divine Healing Art is my freedom movement.

Dionne Victoria is a Chicago artist whose artwork is a meditative tool to heal and express the internal landscape of the soul in an external world.

Detox Vegan Menu
Turmeric Detox Broth
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Rainbow Wraps

Vegan Spring Rolls with BEST EVER Peanut Sauce! These spring rolls can be made ahead and stored for healthy meals or potlucks and gatherings, or serve as a delicious light and healthy vegan dinner!

Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum Part 3 Using Tactical Urbanism as a Tool

"Art is Business"
Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum Part 3 Using Tactical Urbanism as a tool 10/03 by Phantom Gallery Chicago Network | Visual Arts:
"Izzy" Isreal Low and David Washington

Using tactical urbanism as a tool and art in placemaking,  Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum kicked off its Community Mural Beautification and Educational Workshops on July 15th,2019. Professional artists working with the museum provided workshops and mural training. The first project of this series was held at the Mack Road Valley High Community center. Youth were introduced to film documentaries from the artist of the Harlem Renaissance, youth who attended learned about jazz artists, poets and writers, and visual artists who were legendary and made a historical impact through the arts. The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion centered in Harlem, New York, from 1918–37. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement," named after The New Negro, a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke.

Shonna McDaniels, Executive Director, a visual artist, and community activist, envisioned an institution to preserve Black history and celebrate the accomplishments of African American people and their legacy. Offering resources to document, preserve and educate the public on African Americans' history, life, and culture.

Want to join me in making a difference? Shonna asked David Washington the question he said yes. He is a motivated muralist with five years' experience and enthusiasm for developing a curriculum for community arts education. In addition, he brings with him deep architecture and art history knowledge. He started at SOJO Summer Camp as a volunteer-created fun and educational activity for campers.

David painted images on a bench themed after W.H. Johnson, with one of Langston Hughes Poetry benches, also the raised bed, and other elements of the garden. 

Barbara Jones Hogu - Never The Same

 Art is Business" of Barara Jones Hogu, 2019. 

Barbara Jones-Hogu is a painter, printmaker, filmmaker, and educator from Chicago. She studied at Howard University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Institute of Design at IIT. She was a member of the OBAC Visual Artists Workshop and painted the actors’ section of the Wall of Respect. In 1968, together with four other artists, she co-founded AFRICOBRA, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. Her work has appeared in exhibitions in Chicago and around the United States and has been collected by many major institutions. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in film from Governors State University.

AfriCOBRA artist, Barbara Jones-Hogu and IMLS Fellow Skyla Hearn

Barbara Jones-Hogu was born in Chicago. She received a BA from Howard University in 1959, a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1964, and an MS with a concentration in printmaking from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1970.  Jones-Hogu is associated with the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As a member of OBAC (Organization for Black American Culture), she was one of the muralists who created the important “Wall of Respect” in 1967 on the south side of Chicago – a public work that inspired the creation of socially, politically and culturally themed murals across the urban American landscape. In 1968, Jones-Hogu became a founding member of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA). As a member of AfriCOBRA, she participated in formulating the group’s mission statement, which stressed black independence and artistic self-determination.

"Untitled" watercolor, from the estate of Barbara Jones Huge, 2019

Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum "Cotton Comes to Harlem" Part 2

"Art is Business"Creative Conversation" PopUp Research Station
Isreal Low "Izzy"

Shonna McDaniels, a visual artist, and community activist, envisioned an institution to preserve Black history and celebrate the accomplishments of African American people and their legacy. As a result, the previous name of Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum changed to Sojourner Truth African American Museum. We offer resources to document, preserve and educate the public on the history, life, and culture of African Americans.

Our mission is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history, experiences and culture through art education and outreach.

The goal of this project is to create public art with images youth can identify with. Also, we hope to educate youth about the important role and legacy artist from the Harlem Renaissance played in shaping history and the vibrant communities they lived in.  Artist working with the museum will provide a series of work-study sessions incorporating film documentaries from the artist of the Harlem Renaissance time period to youth at the Mack Road Valley High Community center.  Youth who attend this center will learn about Jazz artist, visual artist, Poets, and Writers who impacted their community through the arts.  August 31st we will kick off a community celebration called “Cotton Comes to Harlem” and invite the entire community to come and paint with muralist to create murals inspired by the artist of that time period.

Mack Road Valley High Community Center, Bike Shop Mural 2019

Investigation- Tactical Urbanism, Public Participatory art projects allow the public to collaborate. To inspire improvement, to infrastructure but also show how temporary installations skillfully connect public art projects with how public space plans are developed and implemented.

Global Designing Cities Initiative

Urban residents have long practiced a form of tactical urbanism: repurposing underutilized places using temporary materials and transforming them into more dynamic public spaces.

But in the past several years, tactical urbanism has become a movement. Frustrated by slow, expensive, and often exclusionary project delivery approaches, urban practitioners have found interim interventions to be an effective tactic for finding what works and getting projects on the ground. These temporary projects can help to encourage meaningful public engagement and generate support for permanent projects by allowing people to experience what’s possible, rather than just looking at renderings.

Want to join me in making a difference? 
National Academic Youth Corps Inc (National Academic Youth Corp) DBA Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum, is raising money to benefit the Community Mural Beautification and Educational Workshops. Our mission is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history, experiences and culture through art education and outreach.
Any donation will help make an impact. 


"Art is Business": Courtesy of Amanda Williams and Bianca Marks reposted by T. Mason

Hello! In advance of today's conversation, here are several articles on the topic. It’s not comprehensive, but it includes a number of articles written between 2009 and now in mainstream publications, chronicling the art market's interest in buying African American and African diasporic artwork in the last decade.

Amanda's key points--collecting black art is not new. The "hot" stems from the attention from PWI (predominantly white institutions) and collectors are what news on the subject focuses upon.

Reflection of diversification in who has seat at the table and their varied collecting missions--from Diasporal Rhythms to Pamela Joyner, consistent, intentional collecting missions

Publications/Critical Writing intentional and increasing
Increase in black curators; members of boards; new black wealth (athletes, rappers, etc.) investing in art as much as other vehicles
Foundation/Funding organizations  increase in blacks in positions of power

ARTISTS are one of the elements of the equation that remain largely the same in the content and caliber of the work.

AW Question: What are ways that we can inspire a new generation of (collectors, museum directors, curators, general public, artist, bankers) to think about controlling the 'reigns' of the monetary value associated with this form of cultural production so that we don't continue to be beholden to mainstream institutions to determine our relevance from an art historical and financial vantage point? 










Some Data: ARTNET reported, in 2018, that over the past decade less than 3% of the art acquired by the 30 museums they studied was created by African American artists even while African Americans make up 12% of the population. What might be surprising to some, they report, is that nine months into 2018, the 30 museums surveyed had already acquired 439 artworks by African American artists.


The mainstream art market opened in the 1990s, allowing non-white and women artists entrée into significant artworld institutions. In a 2004 talk delivered at the College Art Association’s annual conference, Huey Copeland, now Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, cites Amei Wallach from a 1990’s New York Newsday article as of writing, “This year outsiders are in… And lots of museums, galleries, magazines, and collectors are standing in line to seize the moment with artists whose skin colors, languages, national origins, sexual preferences or strident messages have kept them out of the mainstream.”

2018 represents a time like 1990, where museums and galleries are clamoring for African American art. The subject matter of African American art, which talks back to the status quo and creates rhetoric around black empowerment and appreciation lends itself nicely to postmodern critique and may have allowed for its induction into the mainstream. But African American artists have been creating art that espouses black pride and have created artworks steeped in particularly black aesthetics for a long time yet have not always been accepted by dominant artworld institutions.

The news is that African American art is hot in the world of art collecting right now. Bloomberg published an article on April 18, 2018, describing the “scramble” that’s happening over African American art. The Bloomberg article quotes, Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA, as she states, “They’re part of a very rich and textured history that we weren’t really committed to exploring… [museums have to] literally pay for the fact that we weren’t as actively engaged in this a decade ago.” According to the article, MoMA has collected more than 430 works by black artists over the past decade. Culture Type reported, in MoMA’s 2016 Annual Report it is recorded that more than 50 works of more than 1,000 artworks collected were by African Americans in 2015-2016.

 Because Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald were enlisted to create the portraits of the first African American president and the first lady which were revealed in February 2018, collectors have become more interested in catching up on black proclivities. With the unveiling of the presidential portrait came the realization that black artists are and have been creating great art for a very long time but haven’t been appropriately recognized for it. It seems like museums across the country are just starting to see the value in collecting art by African American artists. While African Americans have been documented to have been creating art in this country since the 1700s by the likes of Joshua Johnson, the recent uptick in collecting black art doesn’t seem too coincidental.

From looking at the news about acquisitions of black art on Culture Type, this year was very active with eight articles about acquisitions published, whereas there were three stories of acquisitions in 2017 and two in 2016. This may by no means be an accurate reflection of the work being done by museums across the country, but the number of articles in 2018 compared to 2017 and 2016 might be quite telling. Some of the acquisitions in 2018 include: Pope L. by the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh; Amy Sherald, Isaac Julien, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Wangechi Mutu, and Jack Whitten at the Baltimore Museum of Art; Emma Amos, Betye Saar, and Dread Scott at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; Isaac Julien and Wangechi Mutu at Ruby City in San Antonio, Texas; Glenn Ligon, McArthur Binion, and Benny Andrews at Mississippi Museum of Art; Betye Saar and Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Dawoud Bey,  Willie Cole, and Carrie Mae Weems at Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

 On September 21, 2018, Artnet published an article and study titled, “African American Artists Are More Visible Than Ever. So Why Are Museums Giving Them Short Shrift?” where they attempt to reconcile how museums can make up for lost time by collecting artworks by African American artists more intentionally. This article seems naïve to the reality of the system. To ask why museums are giving black artists the short shrift is to not recognize the changes needed in our society to afford black artists equal opportunity. The article is well-meaning, though. They reported, in 2018, that over the past decade less than 3% of the art acquired by the 30 museums they studied was created by African American artists even while African Americans make up 12% of the population. What might be surprising to some, they report, is that nine months into 2018, the 30 museums surveyed had already acquired 439 artworks by African American artists.

Museums and galleries at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are priceless for collecting artworks by African American artists at times mainstream institutions ignored black artists. While the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Newark Museum and Smithsonian have been ahead of the curve, many museums are just now catching up. In a controversial move to diversify their collection, Baltimore Museum of Art’s director, Christopher Bedford, decided to sell seven artworks by prominent white male artists, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Franz Kline in order to collect works by people of color and women. The truth is, deaccession, as it is known, selling off artworks where there is already great depth in the collection, is done by museums regularly. And this deaccession was a decision made by both the curators of the museum and the community.

According to the Artnet study, major museums across the country have ramped up their numbers of artworks acquired within the past decade: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts acquired 393 works over the past decade; of Nasher at Duke University’s 628 acquisitions 132 of them were works by African American artists, and over the past decade Cleveland Museum of Art acquired 73 works by African American artists. These acquisitions signal a change in the thinking about art museums in general. They are becoming more cognizant in reflecting the interests of the communities they are meant to serve.

Several museums have added the work of African American self-taught artists to their collections, including the High Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Spelman Museum of Fine Art, Museum of Fine Art Boston, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, New Orleans Museum of Art New York’s Morgan Library and Museum, and the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Artists who have been collected include Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Purvis Young, Nellie Mae Rowe, and quilters from the Gee’s Bend Quilters. All of the artworks collected by these museums by self-taught African American artists are represented by the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation. In 2014, the Foundation made a gift of 57 artworks to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art. In 2017, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which is known for its folk-art collection, collected 54 works by the artists represented by the foundation. In 2018, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art was the first HBCU museum to receive a gift from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in the form of seven quilts from the Gee’s Bend Quilters and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collected 34 works from the foundation.

In 2015, The New York Times published an article about collecting African American art. Included in it is a prediction by Norman Lewis, an African American painter, scholar, and teacher who passed in 1979. He told his daughter, “‘I think it’s going to take about 30 years, maybe 40, before people stop caring whether I’m black and just pay attention to the work.’” Ideally, this would be the case as museums start to acquire the best of African American artwork to add to their collections. That they would look at the work and not worry about whether the artist is black would be the situation in an ideal world, but is that the case today? Are museums collecting great art or are they collecting black art? There is no doubt that African American artists have created awesome works throughout history. And the representation of African American artists in museum collections positively adds to the art history of America.

Three years since The New York Times article and several museums are actively working to acquire the artworks of African American artists. Per the Artnet study, the 30 major museums they surveyed are putting their money where the black art is. But of course, these larger museums are going for the legends, Alma Thomas, Beauford Delany, William H. Johnson, and Aaron Douglas to name a few. Recent news indicates that emerging artists Alfred Conteh was acquired by the Minneapolis Museum of Art and Bisa Bulter by the Art Institute of Chicago during Art Basel in Miami. From reading artists statements of emerging artists, smaller museums are also collecting black art. By placing their artworks in well-known collections, the value of all their work increases, making such a move very important for the black collectors who have been acquiring their work for years.

The truth is, African American art is inherently laced with value. African American visual art represents the history of resilient people, a people who would not be discouraged by the racism of the art world or any other institution but encouraged by their passion for the arts. Most African American artists who are being collected by major museums today, those who have worked for decades without such recognition, aren’t alive to reap the benefits of these acquisitions; and it’s not simply about the money, but about an overall appreciation for the work. Hopefully, this interest isn’t momentary, but permanent, so the work the ancestors put in will help contemporary artists be appreciated for their work in a major way too.



Reframing art history to include previously overlooked and underrepresented artists is as major an undertaking as it sounds. For San Francisco–based philanthropist and collector Pamela Joyner, it’s become her mission to incorporate the work of African American artists not only into history books but also in the collections of major museums and learning institutions. Over the past 20 years, Joyner and her husband, Fred Giuffrida, have amassed one of the most important collections—if not the most important collection—of African American art in private hands. In 2016, the collection was chronicled in Four Generations: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art (Gregory R. Miller & Co.), complete with hundreds of illustrations, alongside essays by leading curators, artists, and writers. The hefty hardcover volume became the introduction to Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, a traveling exhibition that debuted in 2017 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. The show, which includes works by African American artists from the 1940s through today, opens at the end of this month at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago (January 29–May 19).

Joyner, who serves as the chair of the Tate Americas Foundation and sits on the boards of both the Art Institute of Chicago and The J. Paul Getty Trust—among other institutions—was recently honored in San Francisco at the annual FOG Design + Art Innovators Luncheon, for her dedication to presenting and preserving the works of African-American artists. AD PRO sat down with Joyner in advance of FOG to talk about the importance of her mission, some of her newest acquisitions, and how to go about building a museum-worthy collection.

AD PRO: The collection you’ve built is incredible, to say the least. When did you become aware of the challenges African American artists faced in finding their place in art history?

Pamela Joyner: I had been aware of the challenges and the issues dating back to when I was in graduate school. Lowery Stokes Sims, who was the first African American curator hired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was someone I met when I was at Harvard Business School. She brought to my attention the challenges that African American artists, in particular, faced in museums and the commercial art world since the existence of African American artists. So that is why I began focusing on collecting in that area. Then about 12 years ago, it became clearer to me that the issues were multifaceted, complex, and deeply embedded in the system, and that perhaps I had the time, resources, and, hopefully, the talent to try to begin to address the issue.

AD PRO: Solidary & Solitary, the exhibition built from your collection, opens at its fourth venue, the Smart Museum in Chicago, at the end of the month. What’s the response been like so far?

Joyner: The response has been terrific—and we’re really, excited about it! The University of Chicago is really home turf to me; I was born at the University of Chicago Hospital and grew up within walking distance of the Smart Museum. I’m very anxious to see what my hometown does with this! The show is just one of the tools in the toolbox of prosecuting our mission to be corrective in the realm of art history. The idea of Solidary & Solitary is, for one, that we’re in a teachable moment. So, the first venues have all been university museums, and each of these universities has written interesting curriculum around the show. For instance, Rick Powell at Duke University, who’s really one of the leading experts in the field of African American art history, taught an interesting course, and the same was true at Notre Dame. Interestingly, at Notre Dame, it wasn’t just the art historians who taught Solidary & Solitary, but there was an interdisciplinary effort. Parts of the exhibition even showed up in science and social science curricula.

AD PRO: Science curriculum? What exactly did that look like?

Joyner: The core piece of that dialog is a work by Charles Gaines, who himself worked with numbers and systems in the 1960s. Charles is especially interesting because he taught at the California Institute of the Arts for many years, and if you look at who he’s mentored, there isn’t anybody in the last 25 years who have come through Cal Arts, focused on West Coast Conceptualism, who hasn’t been touched by Charles Gaines. Mark Bradford, for instance, was one of his teaching associates. So, it made complete sense that the scientists and mathematicians were interested in the construct of Charles’s work. People who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily pause to think about art history at all—and certainly this piece of art history—were brought into the dialogue.

AD PRO: There’s a rumor that when the show lands at The Baltimore Museum of Art later this year, it’ll see some significant changes.

Joyner: When the show goes to Baltimore, it’s going to be three times the size and will likely take on a different tenor and may even have a different name. At the same time, we’re planning to republish Four Generations, which is now virtually sold out! We’ll be expanding and revising it—adding four to six essays and probably 80 new images.

AD PRO: That’s certainly a lot of new work. What is your strategy for collecting?

Joyner: I have a list taped in my office closet and I redo it every November. For the last couple of years, we’ve been buying a bit to fill holes in the collection that curators have pointed out—works they’d like to show at different points in the exhibition tour. This year I get to do what I normally do, which is sit down and think about who it is I’m interested in, and where they fit into the collection, which starts in 1945 and goes to yesterday.

AD PRO: What’s one example of an artist you were missing?

Joyner: If you collect mid-century Black Abstraction, you must own Martin Puryear, and we didn’t until recently. So, to me, that was a gaping hole.

AD PRO: What are some of your other recent and most exciting acquisitions?

Joyner: I’m very excited by a number of young artists we’ve been working within recent years. Last year, I bought several pieces by Firelei Baez, who was born in the Dominican Republic. We’ve also added Christina Quarles, who paints abstract figures. We’ve continued to add Kevin Beasley’s work—we own 8 to 10 pieces. He has an exciting show up at the Whitney now – we have work from every series he’s done so far. We’ve also deepened our holding with the work of a recently deceased friend – Jack Whitten. We own his work very deeply as well.

AD PRO: Although a large portion of your collection is touring, I still have to wonder: Where do you keep it all? You must be close to running out of space.

Joyner: If you come to my home in San Francisco, at any given point in time I probably have between 130 and 145 works on the walls. No curator would hang in that way, but what I try to do—because there is a 100-plus artist in the collection—is have one representation of every artist in the collection. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now because the core of the collection is traveling.

AD PRO: You also have a property in Sonoma where you host an artist’s residency program. Who’s eligible and how does it work?

Joyner: You have to be in the collection, or eligible to be in the collection as an artist. We also invite scholars in the field to participate. The way it works is informal—you have to ask me, or I have to ask you, and we work to find a date. Typically, people come for a month. But, for instance, South African artists stay for a much longer time. We recently had Nolan Oswald Dennis in residence from September to December. Fifteen percent of the current collection is by South African artists.

AD PRO: How do you discover new artists?

Joyner: Sometimes artists reach out to me directly. I go to all the major exhibitions and shows, and sometimes MFA shows. I follow several of the residencies that focus on young artists, and often these young artists tell me about their mentors and peers, and I find artists that way. And, curators will call people to my attention—that’s the most usual way I find new artists.

AD PRO: What advice would you give someone trying to build a collection?

Joyner: I’m a reader. Along with The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, I read the art blogs. I often tell people who ask how to start a collection, "the first thing you have to do is start your book collection." It was certainly true for us since there wasn’t concentrated expertise in this field. There were, of course, always great scholars like Rick Powell, Kellie Jones, Lowery Stokes Sims, Thelma Golden, and Mary Schmidt Campbell. Although the scholarly work has been out there, in some ways it’s been as overlooked as the subject matter—but it’s changing!



Hanging in Robert Johnson's den is an oil from the 1930s by an African-American artist named Palmer Hayden. The painting depicts a black American businessman getting his shoes shined.

The subject is nattily dressed in suit and spats, a little like Johnson himself, who is sporting a crisply pressed blue shirt and a shiny yellow tie.

"That painting represents pride and dignity," says Johnson. "I identify personally with this work."

Johnson may be known for the low-budget comedy routines and booty-shaking music videos that drove the success of BET, the cable channel he founded that turned him into America's first black billionaire in 2001.

But in his private moments, he is moved by art that documents the struggles and achievements of black people in America. Since the early 1980s Johnson, 62, has assembled some 250 pieces by 19th- and 20th-century African American artists.

Though Johnson's collection is probably worth only a couple of million dollars, it includes some of the most famous names of the genre: cubist-inspired collage artist Romare Bearden (1911-­88); modernist Harlem painter Jacob Lawrence (1917­-2000); and Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859­-1937), who studied under Thomas Eakins in the 1880s and was the first black painter to gain international acclaim.

Son of a Mississippi factory worker, Johnson started his channel in 1979 with a $500,000 investment from John Malone. He sold it to Viacom in 2001, receiving $1.5 billion in stock for his 63% share. Today he owns an NBA team, North Carolina¹s Charlotte Bobcats, and runs RLJ Investments in Bethesda, Md., which includes hotels, car and motorcycle dealerships, a bank and a nascent hedge fund and private equity arm. (Johnson's current net worth: perhaps $700 million.)

Though mainstream museums and galleries have been slow to appreciate work by African Americans, the black community has been collecting for decades.

Bill and Camille Cosby have built a collection of 400 works, including artists like Bearden, Lawrence, late-19th-century landscape painter Edward Mitchell Bannister, self-taught 20th-century artist Horace Pippin and 1960s abstract painter Alma Thomas.

Basketball star Grant Hill owns a collection of midcentury work. Entertainer Harry Belafonte has been collecting African American art since the 1950s and Oprah Winfrey has been buying a mix of work, including pieces by contemporary artists like Whitfield Lovell. Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Parsons and Kenneth Chenault also collect.

Now white collectors and institutions are discovering these long-overlooked works.

"What's happened in the last five years is a paradigm shift," observes Steven L. Jones, 61, an African-American dealer in Philadelphia. "This means that the best work is going up exponentially in value."

Last year Swann Auction Galleries in New York became the first auction house to create a department of African-American art and in February sold a 1944 modernist oil by Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas for $600,000.

Johnson bought most of his art in 1998 when he learned that a significant body of work, the Barnett-Aden collection, was for sale by the Florida Education Fund, along with the building where the art was housed, the National Museum of African American Art, in Tampa. Johnson acquired 222 pieces, including 68 drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures from the original gallery. The rest of the pieces, all by black artists, were added by the museum. Johnson says he doesn't recall what he paid, but a dealer familiar with the sale pegs it at $400,000. Two dealers who know the collection say it's tripled and possibly quadrupled in value in the last decade.

Prices continue to climb for quality pieces, even while other collecting categories founder.

Manhattan dealer Michael Rosenfeld says business is strong; he made three six-figure sales during two weeks of stock market turmoil in November. The highest prices for an artwork by African Americans come in the still overheated contemporary art market, where Andy Warhol protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat is the reigning star, with a 2007 auction record of $14.6 million. Kara Walker, 39, who makes large cut-paper silhouettes containing sexual images and black stereotypes like pickaninnies, stirs controversy and commands prices over $400,000.

Johnson, who plans to stage a Washington, D.C., exhibition of his art this February, believes the works should be displayed separately from those of white Americans.

"This is work by artists who were influenced by the fact that they were African-Americans living in America and dealing with all that that means," he argues.

Sometimes they provocatively exploit racial stereotypes. Example: a 1940 canvas hanging in Johnson's office by Archibald Motley. Called "The Argument," the painting depicts a street scene and a couple of men who look like minstrels in blackface, with oversize red lips. Johnson doesn't have a problem with this picture.

"It's just black folks being black folks," he observes, smiling. "They're talking about what happened in the club last night," he adds. "Or maybe they're talking about when they're going to have a black president."


Amy Sherald once waited tables at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Today she’s a trustee, with collectors and other museums clamoring for her work after unveiling her portrait of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year.

Black artists, long overlooked and undervalued, now occupy one of the hottest corners of the market. Famous buyers have included hedge fund managers Ken Griffin, Steve Cohen and Jim Chanos, major museums, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“It’s such a watershed moment,” said Lisa Melandri, executive director of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which will host Sherald’s first solo museum exhibition next month. “It realigns the canon of art history."
Barkley Hendricks Katya Black art
"Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins)" by Barkley HendricksSource: Jack Shainman galleryUnlike trends that tend to fade after a year or two, black art has been sustained by unparalleled museum support. The gold rush is playing out from Sotheby’s, where billionaire Yusaku Maezawa paid $110.5 million for a Jean-Michel Basquiat canvas last May, to sold-out exhibitions and art fairs worldwide. Virgin Mary

U.S. institutions are realizing their collections have largely overlooked the black figure.

“It’s a bit of a mad scramble,” said Todd Levin, a New York art adviser. “They’re all aware that they have been behind the curve in supporting, collecting and exhibiting work by African-American artists and they’re all making tremendous expenditures to make sure there’s more equal representation.”

Perez Art Museum Miami established a $1.1 million fund, with backing from billionaire Jorge Perez and the Knight Foundation, that will allow it to acquire black art in perpetuity, no matter who’s in charge said museum director Franklin Sirmans.

Katya Black Art
“The Holy Virgin Mary” by Chris OfiliSource: Victoria Miro GalleryThe Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired more than 430 works by black artists since 2010, according to Ann Temkin, the chief curator of painting and sculpture.

“They’re part of a very rich and textured history that we weren’t really committed to exploring,” Temkin said. Now museums have to “literally pay for the fact that we weren’t as actively engaged in this a decade ago.”

This week, MoMA got a big break. Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary” -- an elephant dung-adorned canvas depicting a black Madonna -- entered the museum’s permanent collection, thanks to a gift from Cohen, a MoMA trustee. The painting -- made famous in 1999 when then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to have it banished from an exhibit -- fetched $4.6 million in 2015, an auction record for the British artist.

See also: Steve Cohen donates dung-adorned art that Giuliani tried to ban

In December, MoMA also received "Tomorrow Is Another Day" -- a 2016 painting by Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford -- as a gift from Griffin, the founder of Citadel LLC. “Helter Skelter I,” a Bradford painting inspired by serial killer Charles Manson, was acquired earlier this year by the Broad museum for $12 million, an auction record for the artist. The seller was retired tennis pro-John McEnroe.

In the past decade, Swann Auction Galleries in New York, which sold $5.3 million of African-American art in 2017, launched hundreds of black artists at auction and established records for major figures, including Abstract Expressionist painter Norman Lewis.

“It’s a backlog of talent,” said Miami collector Mera Rubell. “You’re looking at four generations of black artists."

Take Sam Gilliam, 84, a Color Field painter in Washington. A decade ago, his auction prices were in the “embarrassingly low" $10,000 range, said Nigel Freeman, Swann’s director of African-American fine art. Since 2014, auction sales increased 662 percent, totaling $2.5 million last year, according to Artprice.com.

Sotheby’s sold a Gilliam in September for a record $684,500. In January, Robert Mnuchin’s Upper East Side gallery, better known for selling Warhols and de Koonings, hosted a solo show for the artist.

Armory Show
Kerry James Marshall of Chicago

David Zwirner, one of the world’s leading galleries, recently started working with Kerry James Marshall of Chicago whose prices hit a record $5 million at auction in November, following an acclaimed retrospective that visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Portraits by Barkley Hendricks, who died last year, also are in demand, with auction revenue up 2,400 percent since 2014.

James Kerry Marshall at the University of Chicago, with Maséqua  Myers and Pemon Rami

“Collectors are very interested in what artists of color have to say now," said Jack Shainman, whose gallery represents Hendricks and Marshall. “For many years it didn’t matter."

Among those drawn to these narratives is CNN’s Cooper, whose eclectic collection of mostly figurative art ranges from Old Master canvases to hand-painted, wooden barber signs from East Africa.

In recent years Cooper added works by several black artists to his collection, although he said he doesn’t view black art as a collecting category. He owns an abstract painting by Bradford, which incorporates pieces of paper from his mother’s hair salon and Nathaniel Mary Quinn’s collage portraits of the residents of Chicago housing projects where he grew up.

“The work seems a genuine reflection of their past, present, and view on society,” Cooper said of the artists he admires.

International Stars
The Studio Museum in Harlem, led by Thelma Golden, has been the launching pad for many black artists. Rubell, the Miami art collector, and her husband Don helped drive greater acceptance in the U.S. In 2008, their foundation featured three generations of black artists in “30 Americans." The exhibition crisscrossed the country, visiting 11 museums, with five more scheduled through early 2020. Most of the featured artists became international sensations. Emerging black artists starred last month at the Armory Show, New York’s biggest contemporary art fair, where Nicodim Gallery sold out of paintings and sculptures by South Africa’s Simphiwe Ndzube on the first day, with prices ranging from $20,000 to $40,000.
“The world has fallen in love with black artists,” said Rubell, who bought a multi-media installation by Ndzube. “They have a powerful story to tell."


The painter Norman Lewis rarely complained in public about the singular struggles of being a black artist in America. But in 1979, dying of cancer, he made a prediction to his family. “He said to us, ‘I think it’s going to take about 30 years, maybe 40, before people stop caring whether I’m black and just pay attention to the work,’ ” Lewis’s daughter, Tarin Fuller, recalled recently.

Lewis was just about right. In the last few years alone, his work has been acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. This month the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts opened the first extensive survey of Lewis, an important but overlooked figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement — and a man who might well have been predicting history’s arc for several generations of African-American artists in overcoming institutional neglect.

After decades of spotty acquisitions, undernourished scholarship and token exhibitions, American museums are rewriting the history of 20th-century art to include black artists in a more visible and meaningful way than ever before, playing historical catch-up at full tilt, followed by collectors who are rushing to find the most significant works before they are out of reach.

“There was a joke for a long time that if you went into a museum, you’d think America had only two black artists — Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden — and even then, you wouldn’t see very much,” said Lowery Stokes Sims, the first African-American curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and later the president of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “I think there is a sea change finally happening. It’s not happening everywhere, and there’s still a long way to go, but there’s momentum.”

The reasons go beyond the ebbing of overt racism. The shift is part of a broader revolution underway in museums and academia to move the canon past a narrow, Eurocentric, predominantly male version of Modernism, bringing in work from around the world and more work by women. But the change is also a result of sustained efforts over decades by black curators, artist-activists, colleges, and collectors, who saw periods during the 1970s and the 1990s when heightened awareness of art by African Americans failed to gain widespread traction.

In 2000, when Elliot Bostwick Davis arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as chairwoman of its Art of the Americas department, there were only three oil paintings by African-American artists in the wing, she said, and not many more paintings by African-Americans in the rest of the museum’s collection. “I had to deal with a lot of blank faces on the collections committee because they just didn’t know these artists or this work,” said Ms. Davis, whose museum has transformed its holdings in the last several years.

Over just the last year, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., have hosted solo exhibitions devoted to underrecognized black artists. Within the last two years, the Metropolitan Museum has acquired a major collection of work by black Southern artists, and the Museum of Modern Art has hired a curator whose mission is to help fill the wide gaps in its African-American holdings and exhibitions.

A More Even Playing Field

In interviews with more than two dozen artists, curators, historians, collectors and dealers, a picture emerges of a contemporary art world where the playing field is becoming much more even for young black artists, who are increasingly gaining museum presence and market clout. But artists who began working just a generation ago — and ones in a long line stretching back to the late 19th century — are only now receiving the kind of recognition many felt they deserved.

Like Norman Lewis, most of these artists showing up for the first time in permanent-collection galleries — including the painters Beauford Delaney, Alma Thomas, Bob Thompson, Aaron Douglas, and William H. Johnson — did not live to see the change. But others, like the Los Angeles assemblage sculptor Betye Saar, 89, and the Washington-based abstract painter Sam Gilliam, 81, are witnessing it firsthand. The Chicago painter and printmaker Eldzier Cortor, who worked in New York for many years and died at 99 on Thanksgiving Day, lived to see his work featured in the inaugural show of the new downtown Whitney Museum. Mr. Cortor had been fielding curators’ inquiries with increasing frequency and donating pieces he still owned because the market had ignored them for much of his life.

“It’s a little late now, I’d say,” he observed dryly during an interview last month in his Lower East Side studio. “But better than never.”

And while it was bad enough for male artists, black women faced even steeper obstacles. “We were invisible to museums and the gallery scene,” Ms. Saar said.

Through the rise of Modernist formalism and, especially, as abstraction took hold, black artists were often at a disadvantage because their work was perceived by the white establishment as formally “lesser” — too often figurative and too narrowly expressive of the black experience.

But even abstract artists like Lewis, who resisted pressure from within the black art world to be more overtly political, were eclipsed — in part, paradoxically, because when curators did seek out black artists’ work, figuration helped them check off a box. “Up until about five years ago, when curators came to us, they were really only interested in narrative works that showed the black experience so they could demonstrate in no uncertain terms to their visitors that they were committed to representing black America,” said the New York dealer Michael Rosenfeld, who has shown work from black artists and their estates for decades. One indication that serious change is afoot, he said, is that more and more museums are seeking prime abstract works by black artists.

Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, said that even within MoMA’s strict vision of Modernism, there were black artists — like the abstractionist Alma Thomas — “who would have absolutely, comfortably fit into the narrative.” But the museum bought its first Thomas works only this year.

“It’s pretty hard to explain by any other means than to say there was an actual, pretty systemic overlooking of this kind of work — with some truly wonderful exceptions, but exceptions that prove the rule,” she said, adding that the way the museum was making up for lost time was by actively buying works, “putting our money where our mouth is.”

Museums Make Up Ground

A handful of institutions — among them the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Newark Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art (now closed) — have been regarded as ahead of the curve. As others make up ground with gathering speed, said Edmund Barry Gaither, director of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston, “I think what we’re seeing now is the aggregation of forces that have been in motion for at least the last half-century.”

He points to black collectors and historically black colleges, like Howard University and Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), which were buying work when few others were. Another force was the founding of the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1968 and pioneering exhibitions that began to change the conversation, like one Mr. Gaither organized at the Museum of Fine Arts in 1970, “Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston”; and “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” curated by the scholar David C. Driskell in 1976 for the Los Angeles County Museum.

The shows pushed “curators and historians to admit there was a whole body of art out there they hadn’t known,” Mr. Gaither said. “They showed how a discussion about African-American art is inseparable from a discussion of American art. One can’t exist without the other.” And slowly — far too slowly, he added — the seeds that were sown changed academia and curators, of all races, who are now in charge of permanent collections and exhibitions.

Gavin Delahunty, a Dallas Museum of Art curator who recently organized a show devoted to Frank Bowling, a Guyanese-born abstract painter who has long worked in New York, said a growing number of curators emerging from graduate programs since the late 1990s felt “like we were educated to address an imbalance in representation.”

“And it’s very natural to me that it’s what we should be doing now in our positions,” he said, adding, “I think there’s a real sense that the doors are pretty wide-open now.”

One result is a growing realization by ambitious collectors that the absence of important works by black artists in their collections diminishes their own seriousness. John Axelrod, a Boston lawyer who saw shows of work by black artists years ago at Mr. Rosenfeld’s gallery, said: “I always wanted to have a great collection of American art. I started educating myself, and it was like a light went off, or more like a bomb: ‘How can I call myself a great collector of this period without some of these artists?’ ”

Mr. Axelrod, who donated and sold most of his American collection to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011, added: “As we became exposed to it, more collectors came to the same conclusion: There are great pieces out there. These are great artists. Why haven’t I seen them before? And I’d better get them now before they’re all gone.”

While the market is catching on, it is doing so slowly and unevenly. Auction prices for the most sought-after contemporary black artists are very strong now when compared with their peers. A David Hammons basketball hoop as chandelier sold for $8 million in 2013, putting him among the most expensive living artists. Paintings by Glenn Ligon and Mark Bradford have recently sold for more than $3 million, and Kara Walker, whose pieces exploring the horror of slavery are tough sells for collectors’ homes, has approached the half-million-dollar mark.

But prices for critically successful artists who came of age earlier, even as recently as the 1960s and ’70s, still lag behind what many dealers think they should be. Mr. Gilliam, who represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1972 and whose draped canvases have had a strong influence on younger painters trying to rethink the medium, has only recently broken $300,000 at auction, though works by Mr. Gilliam on view recently at the Frieze Masters art fair in London were priced at up to $500,000.

“I’m sorry, but I really believe that if he were a white artist, you wouldn’t be able to afford him now; you wouldn’t be able to touch him unless you had several million,” said Darrell Walker, the former professional basketball player and coach, who has collected works by Mr. Gilliam, Norman Lewis and other black artists for more than 30 years.

A Rush for the Best Works

As the gauge begins to move toward correction, more collectors and museums are scrambling to find the best works. “The prices are now well beyond what I could do without major financial sacrifices to buy just a single painting,” said

James Sellman, who, along with his wife, Barbara, has been collecting work by self-taught black artists like Thornton Dial for decades.
Mr. Sellman is on the board of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in Atlanta, which last year donated a major collection of 57 pieces by African-American artists from the South to the Metropolitan Museum, a gift Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director, called “a landmark moment” in the museum’s evolution. (It came 45 years after a widely derided Met exhibition, “Harlem on My Mind,” which was intended to celebrate the cultural history of black Americans but contained no work by painters and sculptors with flourishing careers in Harlem.)

A show organized around the Souls Grown Deep donation is being planned by the Met, and next fall, at its new Met Breuer building, the museum will host a retrospective of the work of the highly sought-after contemporary painter Kerry James Marshall, making for perhaps the most concentrated focus on work by African-Americans in the museum’s history.

But Ms. Sims has been around long enough to know that the art world does not always move in a consistent direction and warned that such progress in many ways remains fragile. “The canon is like a rubber band,” she said. “You can stretch it, but there’s always the danger it’s going to snap back.”

Thelma Golden, the current director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, said, “Yes, things are better.” But, she added: “What we need to continue to understand is that the exhibition and collection of this work is not a special initiative or a fad, but a fundamental part of museums’ missions — and that progress is not simply about numbers, but understanding this work, in the context of art history and museum practice, as essential.”