A century from now, will people think our culture was limited to reality shows and booty selfies? If that makes you cringe just a little bit, it’s important to seek out other forms of culture and patronize the artists who create them. Alaina Simone, director of the Merton D. Simpson Gallery in New York, says the art we support now will be among the only clues future generations have of who we were.
Simone is loath to discuss art in terms of race. “I support African-American artists and artists of color,” she says, “because I believe in their work. I support them as artists first, not just based on color.” She recognizes that black artists face a myriad of hurdles that make it challenging for their work to gain the attention and support necessary to push them into posterity.
Simone points to the popular Art Basel fair as one case-in-point.
The international art event attracts top gallery owners, collectors and celebrities to separate seasonal showcases in Basel, Switzerland as well as Hong Kong and Miami. Nicole Richie, Gabrielle Union and Marc Anthony were among the stars that hit up the most recent Art Basel Miami. Likewise, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Yinka Shonibare and Meschac Gaba were among the black artists that showed. Back in 2012, Jay Z famously picked up a painting by Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley at Art Basel while Rick Ross, Diddy and Usher also reportedly made purchases at the fair.
But, Simone points out, Art Basel’s social scene is not inclusive. “The parties are still not very mixed.”