How black artists and collectors came together to form a new revolutionary way to promote and sell black art.
Black art matters. And yet, it is difficult to find a central, accessible location to purchase quality, affordable art by Black artists. For Black artists, it's can be especially hard to gain recognition and meaningfully connect with broad audiences. After a nationwide call to action to support Black communities, we decided to bring Black artists to the forefront and form BlkArthouse -- an organization dedicated exclusively to bridging the gap between everyday art-lovers and Black artists.
Art can be intimidating. Art collection was traditionally limited to the white upper class and the system was built around their demand. Attempting to intentionally purchase art from a black artist presents special challenges, given that searching “Black art” online pulls up unresponsive, sometimes appropriative art. Most people today purchase art online, but mass platforms like Society6 and Saatchi Art only highlight a few Black artists. The rare platforms dedicated to Black art often lack curation, quality, or affordability. Suddenly, what should have been an easy click to find something beautiful and inspirational turns into a disappointing reflection of the racial issues affecting the art world.
Anyone operating in the contemporary art space knows the importance of Instagram to artist-visibility. But while Instagram may help put artists on the map, the average consumer does not peruse Instagram intentionally to purchase quality art. This is largely due to the nature of the application--to find impressive work, a consumer must manually review hundreds of Instagram accounts and hashtags. The sheer number of artists tagged #Blackart or #Blackartist is overwhelming. Because of this disconnect in app-usage, many artists with large followings still struggle to convert followers into buyers. Frequently, casual onlookers use Instagram. Buyers use galleries.
May 25, 2020: George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in broad daylight, sparking nationwide protest and a call to action to support Black communities. Droves of people started actively searching for ways to uplift and invest in Black businesses. Notably, more people were interested in Black art, and justifiably so. Art is powerful because it reflects our culture, politics, and values, and an investment in Black art, specifically, demonstrates an ongoing commitment to a true multicultural society. Nonetheless, while more platforms began promoting Black artists, none provided a central space dedicated solely to investing in Black creativity and development.
The best way to complain is to fix a problem. Founder Tatiana Rice, a Black amateur collector, began putting together BlkArthouse – an online collective uplifting Black communities by providing a central and accessible location for Black artists to promote and sell their work. BlkArthouse spoke to dozens of Black artists across the country and around the world, including our current artists, Abi Salami, Onnissia Harries, Diane Britton Dunham, Von Deon, Kellem Monteiro, and Malcolm Xavier (pictured above). One common thread connected their stories: being an artist, especially a Black artist is hard.
We learned how difficult it can be for artists to meaningfully create art while juggling the responsibilities associated with running a business. Rather than focus on the art, many emerging artists must devote tedious amounts of time to marketing, logistics, and managing their own website and sales to stay afloat.
We learned how galleries did not always have the best interest of the artist at heart, especially Black artists. Although galleries traditionally provide the primary means for artists to connect with buyers, some galleries limit Black expression, suggesting that Black artists either lighten or darken their subject matter and requesting that the artist decrease the value of what the artist put into their work. We learned a great deal of pain points for Black artists trying to gain recognition and develop their careers, but we also heard tales of inspiration and how artists are optimistic for a better future.
We aim to revolutionize the way Black art is bought and sold. No longer should talented black artists be disconnected from interested buyers and no longer should the business of art overrun the process of expression. Art should aspire to become a system of meritocracy, not exclusivity. Art is for everyone, and the art world can only improve by reducing barriers to Black creativity. At BlkArthouse, we aim to seamlessly bridge that gap between everyday art-lovers and Black artists, provide our artists the respect they deserve, and foster an environment where Black creativity and development can thrive. Join us.