Carol Vogel’s New York Times column carries the big news that the Brooklyn Museum is embarking upon and acquisitions program to add historical depth to its holdings of African-American art. The sale category had been growing of the past few years as Swann Galleries pioneered semi-annual sales. This October the sales hit a wall with the sale total dropping below $1 million for the first time in two years. The overall total was down by a third from the previous sale but the average price fell by only 21% in the same period. It’s too soon to tell what kind of effect the Brooklyn Museum’s buying will have.
The curatorial rationale for buying these works is to provide an art historical context to the work of Contemporary African-American artists as well as serve the museum’s own constituency better:
“A lot of these older works are by artists many people have never heard of,” said Arnold L. Lehman, director of the museum. “Yet there are many contemporary black artists looking back at their predecessors.”
The institution has set a three-year goal for the project, aiming to raise $500,000 for a dedicated purchase fund. It has already received $100,000 from Saundra Williams-Cornwell, a trustee, and her husband, W. Don Cornwell, as well as $100,000 more promised by the Cornwells as a matching grant. Another trustee, Charlynn Goins, and her husband, Warren, have promised a gift of a painting: “Dream of Arcadia After Thomas Cole,” an 1852 landscape by Robert S. Duncanson.
“Forty-five percent of our audience are people of color,” Mr. Lehman said. “While we are doing this from a curatorial point of view, it does reflect what our visitors expect when they come to the museum.”
Inside Art: At Brookyn Museum, African-American Artworks Pre-1945 (New York Times)