Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting titled "Dustheads" sold for $48.8 million at a May 15 auction. (Image courtesy of AP/NBC New York)

Black Americans should invest in art.

If you ever had a doubt about the importance of art in the development and maintenance of history, culture and identity of a people, think for a second on why museums are always the first to be raided and looted after the fall of an empire or a nation.

It was true for the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, where “untold numbers” of prehistoric 4,000 year old Mesopotamia and Islamic art were stolen, hours after the official deposition of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad. It was also true of an archaeological museum in the town of Mallawi, Egypt, which was looted of 1,050 “irreplaceable artifacts” and ransacked during the recent uprising.

“People should really understand there is lots of power in art, and it all goes back to ownership,” said Florcy Morisset, owner and creative director of Vivant Art Collection.

Morisset has been preaching the virtues of art ownership in her downtown Philadelphia gallery, the only one in the city, which specializes in Haitian and culturally ethnic world art, for over seven years. In September, she will officially be closing the gallery doors and moving her collection online. However, she is still particularly keen on inspiring more black patrons of the arts.

As Morisset simply states: if we don’t buy it, others, who might not have the same goals and cultural interest, will.

“It’s to the point that some African artifacts and some famous black artists are now so far out of the financial region that we [black people] can not even own their art,” she said.  “And if we’re not owning it, that means other are. And if we are not participating, that means we have no voice in shaping culture.”

Ownership is key.

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Jay-Z preforming Picasso Baby

This is particularly true of young black adults, who Morisset believes are the most absent from the investing and personal curating side of the art. Rappers like Jay Z, who turned his song Picasso Baby into performance art for the Pace Gallery, and Swizz Beatz, who frequently talks about his own collection of notable artwork, are helping to change the face of what we think about art collecting.

However, as Morisset notes, “The problem is that normally, art is regarded as a luxury item, and some are unwilling or even unable because of money. But that’s not always the case. You don’t have to be Oprah or Jay Z to have a collection. There are people with only three pieces and consider themselves art collectors. It really just comes down to a matter of education.”

Understand your options.

For one, understanding the different options you have to support the arts is important. As an investor, your aim is to buy art with the purpose of it selling it in the future.

“An investor tends to buy what is hot and trending and what has the opportunity to appreciate,” she said.

Whereas an art collector buys arts based around their personal preferences and, generally speaking, to either display in their homes or loan to museums or even to donate at the time of their death. Morisset said that while either option is an excellent choice for a young black patron, she does offer three general rules for picking investment pieces.

Get to know the artist.

First, she suggests an investor get acquainted with the artist behind a potential investment piece. “Do you know who the artist is? Does the artist have a Google-able name? Do you have his bio? Basically, you want to make sure you have the history of the artists, as his story is just as important as his/her art is,” she said.

Look for quality and pick a theme.

The quality of the art piece, including craftsmanship and durability, is also a huge consideration. However, the most important aspect of any investment collection is picking pieces which bring your collection together under one unified theme.

“Your collection could be of only oil paintings, or it maybe photography stills or charcoal paintings. Or you may build around a particular artist, country, time period or even a color. There is a collector whose entire collection is based around Number 7 editions of prints,” she said. “What theme you choose to shape your collection is up to you. However, if your intent is value, it is best to have particular unifying theme.”

Morisset also want folks to remember that the artist and the quality of his or her work, as well as the quality of the collection itself, are much more important than how much you paid for a individual piece. And in fact, she sees young aspiring artists as better investments, as they tend to offer more appreciation value than already established artists.

Buy what you like.

“But overall I tell people to buy and invest in what you like. Nothing is guaranteed to appreciate,” she said. “As a collector, buy a piece that stops you in your tracks and speaks to you. Again, the number one reason is that we are looking to protect what you find valuable and who has access.”