On display: “Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections” at the Detroit Institute of Arts

AARON DOUGLAS, “Study for Haitian Mural, Wilmington, Delaware”, 1942 (oil on panel). | Loaned by Wilson A. and Deborah Fl. Copeland and Lauren FC N’Namdi

On View presents images of remarkable exhibitions

Although attention is often paid to patrons of the arts in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, for generations the city of Detroit has had a large collector base devoted to African American art and artists. A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) shines a light on this rich, historically rich history and legacy of continued support.

“Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections” presents 60 works from 19 private collections. Paintings, sculptures and photographs of historical, modern and contemporary figures are included – from Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, and Bob Thompson, To Richard Hunt, Rashid Johnson, Whitfield Lovell, and Carrie Mae Weems. Detroit artists such as Charles McGee, Allie McGhee, Tylonn Sawyer, and the end Leroy Foster, are also in the spotlight.

“The Plotters” (1933) by Archibald Motley and Robert S. DuncansonThe “Flight of the Eagle” (1856) from the famous collection of Dr Walter O. Evans and Linda Evans is on view. A surgeon, Dr. Evans spent his career in Detroit and retired almost two decades ago in Savannah, where he was born. Over the years he builds a collection above all of African-American art of the 19th and 20th centuries comprising more than 500 exceptional works.

Joann and Harold Braggs contributed Clementine hunter“Picking Cotton” (1968) by, as well as works by Norman Lewis, Herbert Gentry, and Benny Andrews. Harold is co-founder of the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club, which meets weekly at a restaurant to give local artists the opportunity to showcase their work to collectors and their peers.

Member of the Board of Directors of the DIA, Dr Lorna Thomas has loaned paintings from Richard Mayhew, Tylonn J. Sawyer, and Robert colescott at the exhibition. Also on display are works from the collection of Maureen and Roy S. Roberts, a retired General Motors executive. Patrons of the DIA, a gallery dedicated to African American art at the museum is named after Roberts.

“Detroit Collects” is organized by the curator Valérie J. Mercer, who championed African-American art at the DIA for nearly two decades. Mercer heads the museum’s General Motors Center for African-American Art, the first curatorial department focused on African-American art in an American museum.

“I wanted to do something different, which was to showcase collectors as well as art,” Mercer told the Detroit Free Press on his vision of the exhibition. “I wanted people to realize that collecting African American art is very doable in the hopes of encouraging people to collect.” CT

“Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections” is presented at the Detroit Institute of Arts, from November 12, 2019 to March 15, 2020

FIND MORE on the exhibition

ARCHIBALD MOTLEY, “The Tracers”, 1933 (oil on canvas). | Walter O. Evans and Linda Evans Collection

BEAUFORD DELANEY, “Greenwich Village”, 1945 (oil on canvas). | Mary Anne and Eugene A. Gargaro Jr. Collection

HUGHIE-LEE SMITH, “Girl Fleeing”, 1959 (oil on canvas). | Lawyer Jerome Watson and Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford

LEROY FOSTER, “The Hero”, 1960, (oil on Masonite). | Dr Darnell and Shirley A. Kaigler

BOB THOMPSON, “The Accusation”, 1964 (oil on canvas). | Collection of Robert B. and Katherine Jacobs

CLEMENTINE HUNTER, “Picking Cotton”, 1968 (oil on panel). | Joann and Harold Braggs Collection

ALVIN LOVING, “Untitled Cube”, 1973 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of David and Linda Whitaker

MARITN PURYEAR, “Reliquary”, 1980 (gessoed pine). | Gayle and Andrew Camden Collection

DAVID DRISKELL, “(Echoes) Let the Church Roll On”, 1995-1996 (encaustic, gouache and pencil on paper). |

ASHEBER MACHARIA, “From Speech to Silence”, 2001 (acrylic on masonite). | Collection of David and Linda Whitaker

CARRIE MAE WEEMS, “After Manet, from May Days Long Forgotten”, 2002 (digital chromogenic print). | Shirley Woodson and Edsel Reid Collection

TYLONN J. SAWYER, “The Child (Day)”, 2007 (oil on panel). | Collection of Lorna Thomas, MD

TYLONN J. SAWYER, “The Child (Night)”, 2011 (oil on panel). | Collection of Lorna Thomas, MD

NICK CAVE, “Soundsuit,” 2010 (mixed media). | Collection of Joy and Allan Nachman

RICHARD MAYHEW, “Transition II”, 2013 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of Lorna Thomas, MD

LEARN MORE about Dr Lorna Thomas’ collection in the New York Times

“Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections” was published to accompany the exhibition.

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