About This Exhibition

UPCOMING RELATED EVENT: Collecting Your Legacy: A Conversation on Art, September 30

A Simple Passion and a Complex Vision: The Darryl Atwell Collection

For hundreds of years artists have relied upon patronage to persist. In the European Medieval period the Church was the major patron of the arts for murals, paintings, sculptures, and architecture. During the Renaissance era, secular patrons like the Medici family began to commission art from great artists. In West Africa, religious institutions in large societies along with royalty often financed the production of art. That support is the primary reason we have wonderful works in expensive materials such as bronze and ivory from places like the Benin kingdom (1300-1897). This is why the Vatican and the palace at Benin have been great repositories of amazing art, as have been concentrations of great art in the collections of private collectors like the Medici family or the Rockefeller family in 20th century America.

Only within the last 100 years or less have we seen the growth of outstanding collections of African American art by Historically Black institutions such as Hampton University or Howard University, and those of collectors like David Driskell, Walter Evans and others. The Harvey B. Gantt Center is devoting the coming year to African-American art collections and Darryl Atwell’s unique collection is the opening exhibition in this series.

Atwell has amassed in a very short period of time a truly impressive collection. The collection reflects his strong personal tastes and has developed with a focus upon younger, contemporary artists working more in abstract and conceptual modes. He has eschewed the ‘usual suspects' found in many collections and he has gone beyond collecting works on paper and has gathered an impressive array of sculpture, large paintings, and unusual media expressions by rising stars.

Atwell has collaborated with former NBA player and avid art collector, Elliott Perry of Memphis, TN, in a most unusual partnership driven by shared passion and information sharing. His entry into the world of visual art began during his early days of medicine in Cleveland, Ohio and, with much study, conversation, and involvement, has led to one of the most unique and impressive collections in the country. We are excited to host this collection for public viewing and we invite you to experience it firsthand in July.

We also will feature a number of events and programs for your enjoyment around the theme of collecting African American art throughout the coming year. Please join us as often as you can.

The Collector: Darryl Atwell

Atwell, who lives in Washington, D.C., has been collecting art for over a decade and develops relationships with the artists in his collection. He shies away from the title of art collector and considers himself more of a purveyor of culture or a steward of cultural capital. He developed a love for collecting while residing in Cleveland and began attending events at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Malcolm Brown Gallery as a social outlet. After realizing it would be cost-prohibitive to purchase work from the master artists at that time in his career, Atwell turned his attention to younger, contemporary artists in his age range. This shift made the art more accessible and provided an opportunity for Atwell to give exposure to the up and coming artists. This is the first showing of the collection to the public which Atwell hopes will appeal to all who visit the exhibition. 

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Image credits: Darryl Atwell sitting in front of Good Vibrations, 2013, Rashid Johnson, courtesy Darryl Atwell. Photo credit: Kevin Broome