Home Art & Culture David Alan Grier on Navigating the Art World as a Black Collector

David Alan Grier on Navigating the Art World as a Black Collector

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5. Conversations With His Late Father My father was the smartest person I knew — he went to college at 16, then went to medical school and became a psychiatrist. He’s been dead for six years, and I miss being able to use him as an intellectual and spiritual sounding board. I find myself talking, or posing questions, trying to talk to my brother about what my dad would have thought about this or that. I wish I could still get on the phone and talk to him, or just have him call me up and say “Can we vent? Can I rant?” It’s not like we had this great relationship when I was younger, but we had this détente when he got older. That’s how life goes.

6. Being a Tourist in New York City I was living in an apartment in Times Square when I was doing “A Soldier’s Play,” and I can’t imagine how I’d have lived if I’d stayed in Manhattan during the pandemic. But I’m looking forward to getting back for the Tonys. I love walking around Central Park, going downtown and doing some shopping, getting dressed up and getting some fancy food. I really love the Armory Art Show and wish I could’ve been there for that. It’s all the super-touristy things I’ve been missing.

7. Slow and Low Sunday Meals I’m by myself now while I’m up here working, but still, on Sundays, it’s in my veins to put on a pot, low and slow. I do a seafood soup or stew, or chicken soup from scratch — it takes all day, just kind of gurgling on the stove. It fills the house with that smell that’s just like, oh my God. My nephew, when he was really little, came over to my house for Christmas and I remember he got up early in the morning and said, “Uncle Dave, your house smells good.” [Laughs] If I were at home, it’d be short ribs, or oxtail and cheesy polenta, anything that takes all day.

8. The Sermons of C.L. Franklin When Aretha Franklin came to see me on Broadway in “Porgy & Bess,” I remember telling her that I would listen to sermons that her dad gave in the 1950s. The cadence and rhythm of a Black preacher is in my bones, it’s in my soul — I love all of it. It’s just like being in church. He goes first to the announcements, like “We need this; we need that” or “We’re trying to raise more money here and there.” Then comes the sermon, the religious part. And he’d end with a story — usually a biblical story — that was perfectly crafted and choreographed so by the time he left the pulpit, it was a rock concert.

9. Stetson Silverbelly Open Road Cowboy Hat That’s my favorite hat, man! The profile of this hat is an old white guy from the South in the 1960s. I never thought I’d be wearing that, but I love it. It’s an off-white, almost bone color because there’s no dye — they don’t treat the felt or the fur, so it really shows its wear, all the blemishes and sweat marks. I wear it as much as I can, and it’s broken in enough now that it feels just like an old pair of shoes.

10. Collecting Black Artists I’ve been collecting for more than 20 years now. I really wanted to collect because I didn’t think I was able to — to even walk into a gallery and say, “I’m interested in that painting.” It’s like the art world does everything it can to repel you.

I started collecting vintage movie posters, of all-Black cast movies, and from there I slowly moved into art — mostly emerging and midcareer Black American artists. Those were the artists I could afford, and they were the artists that represented and were painting the world in which I lived right now. I love finding new young artists. I’ve been collecting Walter Price for the past two years. When I saw his images, I immediately loved them — the crude figures, his use of color. Usually, I buy a couple of pieces, and then that person gets hot and famous, and I can’t afford them anymore.

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