NBC News did a story about the owner of a large collection of African art who originally wanted to donate the works to an existing institution but has now decided to build his own museum in New York with the help of a kickstarter campaign. This effort should stand as a stark reminder to those who view the art market with suspicion that all great museum collections have been founded on private collections amassed through the market:
Over 2,500 pieces of African art — some dating back as far as 4,000 years — all exist under one apartment roof and potentially worth millions of dollars.
As one of the largest private collections of African artifacts in the United States, it represents each of Africa’s 54 countries and continues to grow, due to the passion of former AT&T executive Eric Edwards.
“The first piece I purchased was a small Mali Sunofo People of Origin maternity figure — it cost $300, it started there,” Edwards told NBC News . “If I see a piece I like and it … I’m willing to do whatever it takes if I think it’s worth it.”
Artifacts in his possession include tools, ceremonial masks, jewelry, clothing and weapons: A copper, brass statue symbolizing birth and rebirth once at the entrance to a chief’s compound in Mali; A feathered ornament from Liberia used for healing rituals from the early 1900’s; A 500-year-old Nigerian drum — which was sold to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. An emphatic collector with a keen historical and cultural understanding of the items he has accrued over 44 years, Edwards stay close with his art, in fact, he lives it.
An African Art Collection Grows in Brooklyn (NBC News)