Romare Bearden is one of those artists whose works are intricately woven in the history-telling of African-Americans. A professional artist who also worked as a social worker, his attachment to serving the human experience is signature to his legacy. Bearden is often linked with his love of jazz, but his work also conveys his fraternity with cultural luminaries Duke Ellington, James Baldwin, Alvin Ailey, and fellow artist Jacob Lawrence.
Whether published in an art book or as a postcard, his use of shape, pattern and color are truly distinct, challenging a level of abstract sensibility similar to that of a Pablo Picasso. To see his original collages with one’s own eyes is an experience beyond what can be captured with reproductions. Bearden’s portfolio sets off an insatiable run of the imagination, and while there are a number of must see exhibitions showing across the country, this centennial also presents an opportunity to invest in owning your own Bearden art piece. Given that Bearden is already a master, buyers can be confident in the accruing value of his pieces.
4 TIPS FOR STARTING A BEARDEN COLLECTION
First is getting to know his works. Diedre Harris-Kelley, co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation, encourages Bearden enthusiasts to indulge in the full story of the artist and his legacy. As demonstrated on on the Bearden Foundation website, his catalog is quite diverse. Having received his own bachelor's degree in education, Bearden was constantly focused on connecting his work to a larger audience. Accordingly, the website conveys enough information to spark a personal connection to the artist’s legacy. In addition to the online resources, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden’s birthplace, are all presenting his works during the centennial celebration.
Second, develop relationships with galleries and dealers. Harris-Kelley notes that for people beginning a collection, D.C. Moore Gallery, located in New York City, is a wonderful place to start. While Bearden’s works are valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he was cognizant of the accessibility of his works during his lifetime and made prints so that more people could afford them. Certain galleries, such as D.C. Moore, Essie, and Michael Rosenfeld carry his prints, which can range in price from $2,500 to $10,000. Halle K Harrisburg director of the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery agrees that prints are a wonderful first step into building your collection, adding that often when people build relationships with galleries, many gallerists will work with individuals to set up payment plans so that one can make the most thoughtful step in developing one’s love of art.
Third, attend events hosted at art museums and galleries, featuring Bearden's work. Get to know other buyers and art lovers who can not only offer insight into how to purchase, but also can offer context that will only deepen a personal connection with the art. The Bearden Foundation website details such events and shows being hosted throughout the country. Given that the artist lived until 1988, it is possible to connect with people who knew him and can make his works accessible in a unique way through their understanding of his context and perspective.
Forth, follow auctions. In addition to reaching out to galleries, auctions provide another opportunity to afford the fine works of Bearden. Each summer, the Swann Gallleries present their annual African-American art auction. There is also artnet.com, which has some of his works currently available on their online auction.
Be sure to visit beardencentennial.org for more information on this year’s festivities and stay connected with the Bearden Foundation learn more about the works that interest you.