Wealthy black couple donates large private collection of African-American art

theGRIO REPORT - A wealthy black couple, who have amassed one of the country's largest private collections of African-American art, is donating more than a 100 works to the Georgia Museum of Art...

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A wealthy black couple, who has amassed one of the country’s largest private collections of African-American art, is donating more than a 100 works to the Georgia Museum of Art.

The donation, which includes prints, sculptures and paintings of well-known and obscure artists, is estimated to be worth at least 1.5 million dollars. It includes pieces from internationally acclaimed African-American artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Romare Bearden, David C. Driskell, as well as contemporary artworks from Atlanta-based artist Radcliffe Bailey.

“The cultural significance of these works to the students at the University of Georgia and to the citizens of the state is immeasurable,” says Paul Manoguerra, chief curator and curator of American art, Georgia Museum of Art.

Art lovers Brenda and Larry Thompson will also fund a new curatorial position at the Georgia museum. Although, the couple now resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, they lived in Georgia for 30 years and view the state as their second home.

They say the wanted to give something back to the state where Mr Thompson’s law career excelled and where he and his wife, a retired Atlanta Public Schools clinical school psychologist, raised two sons. Thompson is a former U.S. deputy attorney general based in Atlanta and retired general counsel and secretary for PepsiCo.

“Larry and I wanted to provide an opportunity for all students — black, white, Hispanic — to appreciate the contribution of African-American artists.” Brenda Thompson told theGrio. “Often people think of African-American art as being limited to folk art or naïve art but the majority of our works are from artists who were trained, educated, producing sophisticated works.”

“With the gift of these works of art as well as the establishment of the endowment, the Thompsons have propelled this museum into the first rank of museums studying and presenting the art and culture of African-Americans,” says William Underwood Eiland, director, Georgia Museum of Art, which is the official state art museum of Georgia.

Larry Thompson initially announced the donation in March, during an exhibition that was part of the 50th-anniversary celebration of University of Georgia’s desegregation. The agreement between UGA, the museum and the Thompsons was recently finalized. The museum gets an initial donation of 100 works, with the promise of more to come.

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