May 25, 2023

"Crazy In Love: Making Sense of the Art Market" a Lecture by Dr. Cheryl Finley

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In recent years, the demand for Black art has exponentially increased with the growth of celebrity influence and the endorsement of Black culture.

More specifically, the influence of The Carters has instigated the idea of interconnection between celebrity influence and the art market. Through their artistic practices and as art collectors, the musical duo [individually known as Beyonce and Jay-Z] inserts novel Black art and increases an understanding of the shifting realm of the art industry among the masses.

“Crazy In Love with Collecting: Beyonce, Jay-Z & Making $ense of the Art Market”, a lecture discoursed by Dr. Cheryl Finley, explored “today’s celebrity culture and the intersection of art, collecting, performance and display,” and the form of dialogue that Black art has become for many Black Americans, this past year.

“It’s important to consider the impact of the work of The Carters,” Finley said. “Not just their work as collectors, but their work as celebrities and celebrity brands and how they’ve always been socially conscious in caring for Black people.”

In 2018, Beyonce and Jay-Z released their collaborative album, “Everything Is Love”, a love letter to Black culture and freedom. The visual video for one of the featured tracks, “Apes**t”, was filmed at the Louvre in Paris and focused on the insertion of Black bodies and Black culture into the mainstream art industry. With over 239 million views via Youtube, the video has been recognized by human beings worldwide. More importantly, the video resulted in an increase in visitorship of 25% at the Louvre Museum and revenue-- the most acknowledged aspect of the art market.  

However, the current pandemic of Covid-19 and racial tragedy has shifted the art market by reducing focus on the monetary value and more on the significance behind the artwork. In terms of Black art, the preservation of Black culture and identity.

“One of the most important collections of African American art is at the CAU Museum,” Finley said. “Over the years, [Atlanta University] have collected works and now have over 1,200 works of art in their collection.” The collection mainly consists of artworks collected by Atlanta University at the Atlanta Annuals established in 1942 by Hale Woodruff. Woodruff was a painter, art historian and muralist best known for his Amistad Mutiny murals at Talladega College.

Finley is the Inaugural Distinguished Visiting Director at the AUC Art Collective and is working on her current book project, “Black Market: Inside the Art World”. The book will analyze and examine “the hypervisibility of Black bodies, the glamorization of Black death and suffering and how it contrasts with the evolution of the art market.”

The art market which has had a lack of Black curators, historians, and other Black figures of power in the art industry yet an heightened demand for Black art. There has been a need, in recent times, for Black trauma and grief to sell which makes Black art a commodity-- a concept that is also explored in Finley’s book.

But, Finley and the AUC Art Collective are actively working to combat the structural and institutional racism that has been built within the art industry. “We need to build an alliance of ourselves,” Finley said. “Whether it’s an alliance of African-American museum directors, or African-American gallery workers and people that are working in the commercial art world. These alliances build networks for our students and others that are working in the art industry to support and mentor one another.”

To bridge that gap, the AUC Art History and Curatorial Studies Collective allows students to declare a major in Art History or declare a minor in Curatorial Studies. The program values the participation in field study and paid summer internships among students. Students from all major backgrounds are encouraged to apply. “There are so many ways that students from CAU, Morehouse and Spelman can get involved,” Finley said. “There are exciting ways to think, interdisciplinarity, about the way the arts intersect with what they do.”