Written By: Claudia M. Watts | @CallMeClaud

“Understanding, preserving, and owning are all very important things. Historically, we’ve been the culture but we haven’t owned it.”

These sentiments have been spoken to me many times before. Each and every time, after momentary despair, they are followed by musings of how to dismantle the status quo. My conversation with Charles Moore was no exception. We agree that the path to reclaiming our culture is  about so much more than the artists. It’s about bringing your child to the museum. It’s about the curators, the writers, and the collectors.

In his book, “The Black Market,” Moore gives aspiring Black collectors a guiding light for navigating the choppy, and at times unwelcoming, waters of the art buying experience. “The first piece of art I bought was 50 dollars.” Moore explained. “When you hear things like Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs bought a Kerry James Marshall for 21 million dollars, on one hand, it’s like ‘Wow he bought a 21 million dollar painting.’ On the other [hand], even as a professional who is doing well for themselves, 21 million isn’t accessible, but they can still be a collector.”

A point driven further home as Moore features a spectrum of collectors, dispelling the myth that one has to fit into a certain box or be “worthy” of space on the scene to have access to art. “I wanted to highlight diversity in terms of socio-economic status. Collectors who went to school with Barack Obama and collectors who were college dropouts, a mother-daughter duo to show the legacy and generational wealth-building aspect,” Moore said.

Profile to profile, the reader is given a glimpse into the philosophies that drive each person’s collecting habits. Be it technique, overall message, or aesthetics, any hopeful collector can find a piece of themselves between the pages.

Moore takes great care to empower the reader from the ground up by starting with a list of suggested readings and moving on to a crash course in notable artists throughout history. He shares insider tips, like visiting art schools and residency programs to collect from emerging artists before their prices become out of range. He also hips you to art-world insiders like advisor Anwarii Musa, who’s especially passionate about cultivating Black collectors.

Moore’s core theme of accessibility is evident not only in content but in the way he chose to write the book. Opting for plainer language and including a glossary of terms, he arms the reader with the vocabulary needed to be assertive in arts-based spaces.

“I find that people are intimidated by the language.” Moore noted, “I didn’t dumb down anything in the book, I just stayed away from academic writing. I wanted them to have those terms when they went into a gallery and listened to someone talk about the works of art so they could know exactly what was being said.” He also went on to say that he didn’t want people to be bored while reading. I can certainly appreciate it given the self-serving snoozefest some art writings can be.

I could go on about our conversation, the insight, and the excellence but more than anything, I’ll stress the importance of collecting. Owning and preserving our cultural narrative, from idea to object is the difference between knowing who we are versus what the world would have us think.

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