Dear Collectors: Navigating The Art Market And Realizing Power

By Whitney Bianca Carnes

Faron Manuel and Derek Fordjour

Atlanta is a beloved city for us; it bustles and hums with sounds of growth and prosperity. Much of this growth can easily be seen by looking at the ever-so-changing skyline or by counting the thousands who have flocked here from every walk of life in search of better options. The prosperity of Atlanta is also evident on almost every city corner under construction with signs that read “starting at the high 400s”. 

The affluence of Atlanta is, I feel, due to the people that choose to call the city home. Many of us enjoy living in this lush city environment, the greenery and the tucked-away neighborhoods you would only know about if you lived there; the businesses nestled inside of old Victorian homes; the family-friendly fun; the versatility of the city — we vote together, pray together and dance together, often! It is fabulous to feel heard by the government officials who are intricately connected to the wants and needs of the people, mostly because they are the people. It is not uncommon to see folks walking down the BeltLine with a beer in one hand and a dog leash in the other while mom pushes the stroller. We have a good time here and we take care of our business. 

 In the last ten years though, our reality has changed. We do not have to leave home to become a successful person, under any given umbrella, be it politics, real estate or education. Even so, for Atlanta-based artists it seems the vibration of wealth has skipped over us. 

The art industry here has not grown at the same velocity as the city, yet. Artists are still forced to leave their homes in the South in order to gain the notoriety needed to be labeled a success in the art world; and we all want that success for them. They must leave to sell their first multi-thousand-dollar piece, they must leave to have other art critics, gallery owners and collectors deem their art “valuable.” 

By the time the artist has “New York notoriety,” the art that we once passed over in an unpretentious show in downtown Atlanta is now out of our price range. We’ve been priced out of the game time and time again, so some would say it is time to change our approach. I am sure you can see how this has become an issue and warrants a conversation to effect change. It is important to us that we reconfigure the equation so that we aren’t left out of it completely.  

We want to find a way to embrace our own artists and profit from it.  

art by Derek Fordjour

According to artist and educator, Derek Fordjour, it means we need to lean more heavily on unity more than ever. I had the honor of attending an intimate reception for him here in Atlanta this past January, where a small group of gallery owners and art collectors listened intently to Derek’s words. I think most of the attendees assumed the reception would be traditional in the sense that that artist would talk about himself, his works and processes the entire time; but Derek did none of that. Instead he focused on the collective as a whole and how as art collectors in a city such as Atlanta we could effect change. 

Derek Fordjour is an American interdisciplinary artist who works in video/film, sculpture and painting. Derek is also a graduate of Morehouse and Harvard graduate, His works are layered and deep — literally, you can see this by the holes, rips and tears — yet soft, vibrant and meaningful. Derek’s process begins by layering a canvas with cardboard, newspaper and paper mosaics, followed by acrylic paint, chalk and other mediums. Derek prefers the undone, raw, matte finish to his works. I think it is quite vulnerable and a most awesomely sensitive expression of life. 

Derek went on to say, “we realize to an extent that we aren’t determining an artist’s popularity or deciding when that artist’s career takes off — even still, we do have power and there is a window for us to capitalize here”. 

Some may say our power is in our ability to trust and unify as a coalition whose common goal is to buy and sell valuable art. As it may be, many artists’ work passes through our hands unbeknownst to us how valuable said work will become in the future. This is an area we can work on, together. 

When an artist comes through Atlanta or as one travels the world and discovers an artist abroad, prior to their “big break” somehow, someone will realize the artist’s potential and share this information with the group. The group, in their own way, can begin supporting the artist and through this support begin preparing the way for a more fruitful future; for example, gallery owners can make an extra effort to host and curate fabulous shows, collectors can show support by attending these shows and purchasing works, journalists can do write-ups covering these events and so on and so forth. Everyone pushes the ball forward.  Forward.

This plan should prove to be both profitable and worthwhile. How? Well, collectively, we will have played a role in aiding an up-and-coming artist; and we will own original works of art, which, if we predict correctly will greatly appreciate with time. While recognizing these benefits, we would be gaining the satisfaction of knowing that we have done this ultimately for the love of art.  

In times where the national climate is divided, and many of us simply want to live our best lives, I say, look to your passion. Look to budding artists within your own community and feed this initiative from the inside out. I say this without any separation lines, “our” is whomever wants to be a part, “our” community is wherever you feel at home. Take time to be passionate today.   

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.


Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

Whitney B. Carnes is an American multi disciplinary artist and writer based out of Atlanta, GA. Whitney attended FIDM in Los Angeles, California and studied Fashion Merchandising and Product Development. After living in California, she returned home and graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Studio Art.
She is the great niece of civil rights icon Rosa Louise “McCauley” Parks, close friends and family know her as “Bianca”.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present.

Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs