Here's The Beginner's Guide To Investing In Black Art

Pictured: Legendary artist, Jean Michel Basquiat

Whether an art lover or not, you'd be hard-pressed to have missed reading about the recent record-breaking sale of Jean Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” painting for 110.5 million. Or maybe you've heard about Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall who is selling in the millions and boasting lines around the corner for his museum exhibits, and let's not forget late abstract expressionist, and Harlemite, Norman Lewis, whose work was largely undervalued when he was alive, but recently sold at auction for close to one million.

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Some credit our former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle with the global interest in African American art. After all, it was Mrs O. who adorned the walls of the White House with African American artwork alongside the “classics.” Others point to the recognition of black artists as being in line with the social justice movement taking place in America right now.

And we can't overlook the influence of hip hop's biggest art head, Jay-Z, who references art in his recordings every chance he gets. Just listen to his recent 4:44 album where he talks about art as a way to build generational wealth. Whatever the case, galleries, auction houses, museums and collectors are clamoring to buy black art, so the question we should be asking ourselves is, how can we be down?

Financial adviser, Ian Fuller, partner at a boutique money management firm West Fuller Advisors in New York, and grandson of the aforementioned artist Norman Lewis, is just the person to advise us. As a kid growing up in art culture, Ian watched his mom and grandmother advocating on behalf of his grandfather and other black artists, making sure they hold their rightful place in American history. So whether looking to invest a little or a lot, Ian has a few basic tips to get us started on the right track!

Financial advisor, Ian Fuller of West Fuller Advisors

Visit Galleries and Museums
One of the greatest ways to familiarize yourself with art and begin to cultivate one’s eye is by visiting some of the more prominent galleries and museums in New York City. Michael Rosenfield, Jack Shainman gallery, and Hauser & Wirth specialize in showing a large portfolio of African American artists from Masters of the 20th Century down to some of the breakout, visionary black American artists currently working today. Museums like The Studio Museum Of Harlem, The Brooklyn Museum, and The MOMA are also great places to start. For those outside of New York, visit galleries and museums in your area with a commitment to black arts.

Art Purchasing 101
When it comes to art, as with any asset purchase, you want to consider the investment value. Investigate where the artist went to school and who his contemporaries are? What’s the work’s provenance? However, the clear distinction with art is that it should also be a passion purchase. Does the work speak to you in a meaningful way? Is it something that will continue resonating even if the value never appreciates?

Auction Houses
Swain Gallery is the most prominent auction house in the country that focuses on mature, more established African American artists. Auctions are a great way to pick up works that are affordable and also to learn. Sometimes the prices climb very rapidly at auctions, but in the past few years it’s been a great place to find a deal if you are smart.

Art Fairs
There are a variety of art fairs that take place throughout the year from the high-end Armory Show in New York City and Art Basel in Miami, to the smaller, more approachable sometimes politically and street art focused fairs like the Affordable Art Fair and Scope Fair. These satellite fairs take place during the same time as the bigger fairs and typically have more affordable original works from $500-$10,000. It’s a great way for newer collectors to cultivate their eye and get a sense of the art community, while finding works that better meet their budgets.

Original Short Run Prints
Leading non-profit art galleries that are community based, partner with outstanding artist who will donate original, short run prints of perhaps 100 or less, for really cheap prices. These prints usually have an original signature and have the potential of becoming very valuable in the future. But obviously, there will be work that you buy of an artist that may never really have that breakout moment, so again, it’s important to love the work first, and think about the investment potential second. Obviously, there are many ways to get started. I also recommend visiting this website Culture Type to stay on top of what's happening in the black arts movement from art creation, to collectors, curators and art houses. Also, support local artists. Good luck!

Have you invested in Black art? Share which artists you've purchased from in the comments!
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Erickka Sy Savané is a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com

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