Collecting black art exhibition catalogues was a gradual and evolving process. As a collector of black (African American) fine art, I strongly believe that a collector of art should be familiar and knowledgeable about the literature surrounding that art. I'll refer to this as the history and documentation of fine art. Very early on, I had a keen interest in learning about the fine arts and became very active in the gallery and museum world. As a learning experience, I slowly began collecting catalogues, simply by purchasing them from the various exhibits I attended locally and when traveling. The main purpose was to learn more about black art and artists and to be knowledgeable and able to speak intelligently on the subject. The more I read and learned, the more I wanted to know. There was a natural curiosity of how individual artists fit into the whole picture of American art.
As my knowledge base increased, my library skills kicked in and I recognized that there was a gap in the literature focusing on black art/artists. There simply did not appear to be enough information out there in the key journals and monographs, and in a naive sense, I wanted to attempt to fill that gap by creating a repository containing documentation of ephemeral materials, monographs and exhibition catalogues. In comparison to other cultural fields, including the performing arts, I recognized that printed material in fine arts literature was less available. I began to refer to these gaps in the literature as the missing links in our black cultural heritage. As I began to study and use the collections in the various black repositories and even major libraries in general, I realized that so much was missing in those collections. Even when books and catalogues had been published, they seemed not to exist in many of our libraries. A great part of the problem probably stems from the fact that most of the catalogues are published in small runs, usually no more than 3,000 copies and are usually available only at the actual exhibition venues. There is not a mass distribution plan, unless the exhibition is national in scope, meaning that it is a traveling exhibition. Consequently, the exhibition catalogues are acquired on a more regional basis rather than national.
Collecting became a passion and I aggressively scoured standard bibliographies to identify what had been published by decade, starting in the 1980s and moving backwards to the 1950s. So, the basic strategy was to see what was available on the secondary market based on a list of titles that had been published. I created my own list of definitive or must have titles and began the search from that point. The Internet was an invaluable resource, introducing me to the secondary market of book dealers. I was able to locate titles from across the country and many for a nominal cost, particularly those in smaller cities and less urban locations. It was not until recently that there has become competition to acquire the literature focusing on black art/artists. Even among collectors of black art, there may not be a concerted effort to collect the print materials relating to the art or the artists. I refer to these materials: books, exhibition catalogues, show announcement cards, press releases as part of the documentation of black art/artists. Because of my interest in documentation, I wanted to acquire as much as I could afford in terms of primary and published materials on black art/artists.
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