‘Self-Taught’ Black Artists Are Often the Last to Benefit When Their Prices Go Up. But We Can Change That — Here’s How

‘Self-Taught’ Black Artists Are Often the Last to Benefit When Their Prices Go Up. But We Can Change That — Here’s How

Imagine if Black jazz and blues musicians from the South had been excluded from the world of music because they didn’t receive formal training in conservatories and lacked representation in the entertainment industry. What would this historical omission have meant for American culture? An omission not so different from this one has played out in the art world. There are 160 artists in the collection of Souls Grown Deep, the foundation which I serve as president. It supports the legacy of African American artists from the Southern United States. A few weeks ago, we launched the Resale Royalty Award Program (RRAP) to address the fact that, historically, many of these artists were bypassed by the art market, marginalized as a result of their race, gender, geography, and because they were “self-taught.”

Hewlett Foundation to award $15 million to groups combatting systemic racism, including Souls Grown Deep

Hewlett Foundation to award $15 million to groups combatting systemic racism, including Souls Grown Deep

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today that it will award $15 million to a range of nonprofit organizations working against systemic racism, part of a larger set of commitments that the foundation pledged this summer. The 15 recipient organizations include charities working across a broad swath of issues—from health to education to human rights—to advance the cause of racial justice, fight against anti-Black racism and amplify the values, aspirations, and power of Black communities.

L.A. designer Greg Lauren heeds the racial wake-up call

L.A. designer Greg Lauren heeds the racial wake-up call

Greg Lauren knows the power of names. When the artist-turned-fashion designer launched his eponymous line in February 2011, it was his last name — and specifically the fact that he’s Ralph Lauren’s nephew — that helped open doors and give his meticulously sliced and spliced artisanal take on menswear early exposure. Today, as his label stands on the cusp of its 10th anniversary, he’s determined that the lesser-known names who have been part of his creative journey — from the stylists working on his look books to the Black quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala., who inspired his patchwork aesthetic — be recognized for their contributions.

This Season Is All About Impactful Quilts

This Season Is All About Impactful Quilts

American patchwork quilts, which sprang up in large part out of the pragmatic need for warmth during wintry months, may not seem particularly interesting in today’s art world. Yet those historic hand-sewn pieces frequently tell stories of injustice and inequality that are just as relevant today as they were when they were first made. Now, with two U.S. museums and one London gallery opening exhibitions on quilts that contain compelling messages of racial injustice and gender equality, the artistic American subgenre is once again rightfully center stage in the public’s imagination.

Souls Grown Deep Starts Unprecedented Resale Royalties for Artists

Souls Grown Deep Starts Unprecedented Resale Royalties for Artists

Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting work by African American artists from the American South, launched a Resale Royalty Award Program to compensate artists when their work is resold through the foundation’s Collection Transfer Program. The program, which applies to past as well as future transactions, includes sales at auction, in galleries, and to museums. It offers living artists 5% — the highest royalty threshold worldwide — of the proceeds from secondary market sales, at up to $85,000 annually per artist.

Souls Grown Deep Foundation will give living artists a 5% royalty when collection works are resold

Souls Grown Deep Foundation will give living artists a 5% royalty when collection works are resold

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an organisation dedicated to documenting and promoting the work of African American artists from the US South, is launching a Resale Royalty Award Program that will grant monetary awards to living artists whose works have been sold through the foundation’s Collection Transfer Program. That initiative has so far placed more than 400 works into museums around the world, including the Met, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Washington, DC’s Phillips Collection, and more. Now, around 50 artists whose work has so far been sold will receive a payout, a rare occurrence in the US, which does not have a droit de suite law for secondary market sales, when their prices may have gone up.

8 Southerners Making a Difference in Their Communities

8 Southerners Making a Difference in Their Communities

The Gee’s Bend quilters have long been known for sewing fabric into beautiful fine art, but when the pandemic reared its head, Mary Margaret Pettway (on left) and Mary McCarthy took to smaller objets d’art. “We had a copious amount of cloth from one company and thought, ‘Oh, these would make great masks,’ ” says McCarthy. So they partnered with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, of which Pettway is board chair, to hire six more quilters and gather materials to make 600 masks—enough for their entire community.

Meet Women Behind the Quilts of Gee's Bend That Changed America

Meet Women Behind the Quilts of Gee's Bend That Changed America

Every quilt has a story to tell, and the quilters of Gee's Bend have fostered quite a legacy for storytelling. For over a hundred years, the women who live in this small community in Southern Alabama have passed down the tradition of quilting from daughter to daughter, and each quilt reveals the personage who made it and the time period in which it was artfully stitched together. "It's been a continuous line of creation," says Raina A. Lampkins-Fielder, curator at Souls Grown Deep. "They've taken traditional quilt patterning and made it into their own, improvisational and unique."

'Can I Make Sure That I'm Not The Only One?' Artist Helps Museum Diversify Collection

'Can I Make Sure That I'm Not The Only One?' Artist Helps Museum Diversify Collection

When the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts bought Manuel Mathieu's painting of his late grandmother in 2018, he learned that it would be the first work the museum had ever owned by a Haitian-Canadian artist. "I automatically started thinking, 'OK, how can I make sure that I'm not the only one?,' " Mathieu recalls. Mathieu, 33, decided to donate the money from the sale of his painting back to the museum, to start a fund to acquire other pieces by under-represented artists. Soon donors were eager to give to the Marie-Solange Apollon Fund, named for Mathieu's grandmother. "There's something that happened that I wasn't expecting," Mathieu says. "The switch in the psyche of people that an artist can do something like that. ... I saw it in people's eyes, not in their words."

The Innovative Quilt Makers of Gee’s Bend Created a New Canon

The Innovative Quilt Makers of Gee’s Bend Created a New Canon

What began as an exercise in making beauty out of necessity (the quilts were historically used to keep warm at home) has become a multigenerational art form that marries spirituality, ancestral legacy and community (stitching is largely a group activity), not to mention an exceptional command of colour, form and compositional rhythm. By combining well-known quilting techniques with a specific blend of “controlled improvisation”, each maker creates something distinct and mesmeric, and every bit as complex as the European modernists who were once reconceiving line, colour and space thousands of miles away.