Tips for Investing in African American Art


5 Tips for Investing in African American Art

by Shantay Robinson

David C. Driskell, one of the best-known African-American art collectors, revealed in an interview that he was gifted an artwork of a famous artist for his wedding by one of his mentors. When it was time to buy his home, he didn’t have enough money, so his mentor suggested that he sell his artwork. Although he saw that artwork at the Guggenheim Museum some years later, the artwork afforded him the opportunity to buy a home. 

Buying art is an investment that does not always come cheap. Although rummaging through garage sales or thrift stores might be an option, the popularity of African-American art has made that option a lot less profitable, as there are more people looking. There are significant benefits to investing in art if you are interested in long-term investments, building community, and sustaining culture. Here are some things to think about when deciding to invest in African-American art.

1. African-American art history
At times in art history it was encouraged that African-American artists look to Africa for inspiration. Some artists were even lambasted for not being black enough. In this postmodern era, a time that encourages cultural evaluation, African-American artists are thriving for the intellectual contributions they are making to the greater art landscape. So when thinking about investing in art by an African-American artist, it might be wise to think about how artworks relate to the history of the people. Artists often look as far back as ancient history or as recently as the news they watched last night for inspiration.

2. Valuation varies
Last year Dustheads (1982) a painting by Jean Michel Basquiat sold for $48.4 million. Pablo Picasso’s La Reve (1932) sold for $155 million the same year. It is probably agreed upon that Basquiat is the biggest art star that the African-American community knows to date. It’s also understandable that Picasso is the formidable art star. True, Basquiat’s sale is impressive. But there are no black artists on the top 10 list of most expensive paintings sold.  For the most part, the art institutions we are relying on to give African-American art value are those of the dominant culture who very often don’t place the same value on African-American art.

3. Other people buy African-American art
Although much African-American art speaks to the black experience, it doesn’t mean that only black people are interested in collecting African-American art. If we look back at the Harlem Renaissance, the way other people sought out opportunities to hear the most highly regarded American art form, jazz, or we look at how hip-hop has crossed over, we can see that there is a potential market outside of the black community. So when investing in art, realize that when making the purchase, if ever there is a need to sell your artwork, there just might be a larger population of people who are also interested in the artwork you choose to purchase. It’s wise to think of whether or not a particular artwork has value outside of the black community.

4. You can learn from art critics
Social media is a great way to stay abreast of what art critics are thinking. They usually tweet the articles that they’ve written or they tweet articles someone else has written that they think are interesting.  There are also blogs dedicated to African-American art that will keep you abreast of African-American art community news. Every major newspaper has an art critic, who may or might not be black or have an interest in African-American art, but finding out what is important in the art world and finding out about movements and trends is invaluable information that can be applied to looking at African-American artworks.

5. Museums and galleries are open to everyone
Although the art world may seem a bit closed off, the arts are for everyone. An arts community is only as good as the people who show up. Yes, going to a museum and gallery can be a well-spent excursion. Most museums have membership plans that allow you to go to the museum as many times as you want for a year. And gallery shows happen quite often in metropolitan cities. Going to the museum will help you evaluate what the art world favors. And going to galleries will help you discover what the latest art stars in your neighborhood and the world are thinking about

Source :

October Gallery

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