“People tell me my house looks like a museum,” says Kendall Glover, a longtime art collector whose house will be one of four featured in the ninth annual African American Art Collections Tour this weekend. “One of the reasons I collect African American artists in this city is because it tells their stories and validates their experiences,” says Glover, who has built his collection over several years. “The pieces I have are very comfortable friends of mine. They represent living memories, experiences and life journeys.
The collections, all held by Bronzeville collectors, are not those found in a museum. “We wanted to identify art collecting in neighborhoods that aren’t recognized as hotbeds of artistic activity,” says Patric McCoy, a well-known South Side collector whose nonprofit organization, Diasporal Rhythms, organizes the tour. “Our mission is to break the myth of the art collector as a private entity. We will open our doors and allow people to see what we collect.
McCoy’s mission is, in part, a response to the traditional relationship between art collectors and museums. Historically, art museums consisted of old private collections transferred to the institution. For example, Bertha Honoré Palmer, the 19th century culturati, donated dozens of French Impressionist artworks to the Art Institute upon her death. Today, Palmer’s collection still forms the bulk of the museum’s Impressionist Gallery.
“We inherently create an institutional concept,” McCoy says. “When art collectors come together, a museum is formed at that moment. The work of art is preserved, honored and we are its custodians.”
“The monetary value of black art is controlled by white America,” says Raub Welch, an artist who has collected African American art for twenty years. “It is very difficult for an artist of color to find a place in the circle of collectors.” Welch, for his part, plans to change that, one purchase at a time.
Two tours depart from the University of Chicago Logan Center this Saturday, October 11 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each visit is limited to 100 people. Tickets are $40 ($20 for students). Pre-registration is suggested at diasporalrhythms.org.