Clubhouse has been all the rage lately, especially in the creative community. Well-known institutional curators to innovative digital creators have utilized the new social media platform to connect in new ways and talk openly about issues that face the art profession. A key highlight of the new platform is access to Felicia Horowitz's weekly "Virtual Dinner Parties," a space where well-known celebrities, executives, and industry professionals discuss various topics--from criminal justice reform to the future of tech. Felicia Horowitz, for those who have not heard of this Black female powerhouse, is a renowned philanthropist and wife to VC giant Ben Horowitz. Last Saturday, Felicia hosted Fab Five Freddy, Thelma Golden, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Michael Ovitz, and Jack Shainman (in addition to other attendees such as Terry Crews, Van Jones, and Nait Jones) for a discussion on "Black art." Here's what you missed:
Black History Representation through Art
The speakers first discussed the representation of Black folks in art-- how art can serve as a powerful medium for individuals to understand ourselves and each other and how the lack of meaningful presentment of Black artists and imagery in the early 1900's lead to the Harlem Renaissance. Michael Ovitz, long-time art collector and manager, also posited how art history and collection have upheld white supremacy by ignoring the impact of Black and African culture on the most famous art or artists in our history. In particular, Ovitz explained how European missionaries often stole artifacts and art from Africa and sold them on the West Bank to artists like Picasso who in turn used these pieces to influence his own art. These stolen pieces are still on display at many museums across Europe without restitution to their home states while creating significant value for these institutions. Meanwhile, the speakers concluded, many of these institutions regarded artwork by Black artists as "primitive," which demonstrates the utmost importance of appreciating and normalizing artwork by Black artists today.
One of the early scenes from the movie "Black Panther" shows Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) at the Museum of Great Britain. In the scene, Killmonger confronts a museum curator: "How do you think your ancestors got these? You think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it — like they took everything else?"
The Future of Black Art Collection
The speakers also spent considerable time discussing the future of Black artists and Black art collection. Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, lead the charge, positing that modern technology and social media assists Black artists today by giving them more autonomy over their own work and career. No longer do Black artists need to rely on white gatekeepers to become successful--they can create their own narratives. In the same realm, art has become more accessible to larger portions of society.
The speakers also answered questions from the audience about the movement towards NFT's (non-fungible tokens) and digital art, decolonizing art spaces, resale royalties, and collectors, amongst others. Largely, the key points were:
NFT's are a way art is getting tokenized to give artists more control of the art process. Though the art space has been traditionally slow to adopt tech, there is a lot of momentum towards democratizing art through technology and the digital realm.
Art collection is becoming trendier among younger crowds. The ideal collector is one that is curious about art, art history, and the artist themself.
Art books are good way to start learning more about viewing and purchasing art for aspiring collectors.
Artists should be weary of collectors and galleries that purchase art to re-sell it for profit. Artists should receive royalties for any re-sale of their work.
The room ended with final thoughts by Thelma Golden on new business models of art businesses/galleries and how various institutions need to be working together to ensure the success of Black artists and artwork. There is hope to build a space for the Black future and it includes understanding the role our institutions play in making that possible and supporting Black-led institutions.
Luckily, with BlkArthouse, this has always been our mission. You can join us for weekly BLKArtist talks on Clubhouse on Thursdays at 7:00pm EST and don't forget to check out the BLKMKT, our new marketplace driven by Black creativity.