ARTNOIR started with a group of friends who noticed the lack of diversity in the art world. “Art is a tool for social change and yet, seeing a truly diverse crowd at art world events is still rare.” said Folake Ologunja, one of the non-profit organization’s co-founders. They would get together to visit the myriad art openings and events around the world, to learn, connect, and support each other. ARTNOIR’s members are a mix of art lovers, patrons, collectors, artists, dealers, curators, and other art world professionals who wanted to not only form a community of people of color within the art world, but to champion people of color in the art world. According to Ologunja, they want to “share access and galvanize our support to include art lovers and collectors of color to build a more inclusive and equitable art world.” Now ARTNOIR is an official organization with programming that includes artist studio visits, talks, exhibitions, gatherings, and more.
Through July 8 at 5pm EST, ARTNOIR is holding ARTNOIR From: Friends To: Friends Benefit Auction 2020, an auction on Artsy to benefit the ARTNOIR Jar of Love Fund, to provide relief for artists, curators, and cultural workers of color. “ARTNOIR has worked tirelessly over the past seven years to be an agent of change that helps in catalyzing cultural equity across the arts and culture industries,” said co-founder and curator Larry Ossei-Mensah. “These unprecedented times of uncertainty and unrest have had an adverse impact on our community. As an organization based on the foundation of community first, we want to do our part to provide relief, love and care for artists, curators and cultural workers of color when they need it most. The unrestricted grant is designed to help remove some of the burden of thought and free up mental and spiritual capacity to continue creating and collaborating in strength.”
The ARTNOIR From: Friends To: Friends Benefit Auction 2020 features nearly 30 artists of color who portray the Black experience in their work, including Fhatuwani Mukheli, Tiffany Alfonseca, Marisol Martinez, John Rivas, and Flo Ngala. “Community is an integral part of the work that we do as an organization,” said Ossei-Mensah. “All the artists that have decided to collaborate with us on this auction are part of our network. They believe in the mission of ARTNOIR and the purpose of the Jar of Love Fund. Moreover, we have a personal relationship with each one and it is important that we continue to cultivate this continuum of reciprocal support. So whether we’ve done a talk, studio visit or highlighted their work on our platforms, this selection of artists represent what happens when you invest in the people, in the art and have trust and respect.”
The works in the auction are as varied as the artists; Martinez turns geometric abstraction into social commentary with Melanocytes by using various skin tones as the colors of the shapes, with a black circle and a white circle as the focal point. Alfonseca’s Girl Talk depicts a group of four women socializing in gold glitter before a pink background. Mukheli’s June 16, 2019, portrays a portrait of a young Black boy reading about the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa 43 years after some 20,000 students fought for their right to an English education, only to be met with police brutality.
“Black artists and creativity have been the bedrock for cultural production not only in the US, but around the world. We’ve made a point to uplift, celebrate and educate our communities of this fact,” said Ossei-Mensah. “For so long, Black artists weren’t getting their proper due respect and now as we’ve reached an inflection point it has become imperative to honor the paradigm shift. By supporting Black artists and the Black art ecosystem we are supporting the journey towards justice, liberation and equity for all people.”