The Washington Post reports on the fire at Peggy Cooper Cafritz’s home in Washington that destroyed a major collection of African American art. A longtime supporter of artists like Kerry James Marshall, Cafritz had assembled what may people considered the canon-standard reference collection of African American art:
Marshall’s work was among those lost in the fire that destroyed Cafritz’s mansion on Chain Bridge Road in Northwest Washington on Wednesday night. Cafritz, a prominent arts patron, collector and a founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, had a major collection of art by African American and African artists. Experts familiar with her holdings, including artists, dealers and local museum curators, described it as a major loss.
Cafritz, reached briefly before returning to Washington from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where she had been vacationing, said she began collecting in college, starting with African art. For the past 20 years, she has collected seriously, amassing a trove of works by important living artists including Marshall, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Shinique Smith, El Anatsui and Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian artist who will be the subject of a major exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art beginning in November.
Cafritz said the collection had been appraised but she declined to give its value. The majority of the collection was in the house, though one piece, which she couldn’t recall, is on loan to a gallery in New York. But she is determined to collect again.
Some artists whose work was in the collection and had been a guest in Cafritz’s house, like Nekisha Durrett, described the house as if the walls were made of art.
“I’ve seen art collections before, impressive art collections,” Durrett said. “This was just something you don’t see around a lot on a smaller scale, like the Hermitage of African American art.” The Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, is one of the greatest art museums in the world.
Bonfire of the Humanities (Washington Post)