Young, Gifted, and Black: A New Generation of Artists: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. Ed. Antwaun Sargent, 2020; New York: D.A.P/Distributed Art Publishers Inc., 256pp., Paperback USD $49.95, ISBN 9781942884590
There is a long tradition of the touring exhibition catalogue dedicated to a private collection; these publications can be a useful peek into the mind of a collector. The catalogue assembled for the ever-expanding tour of the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection—the originating venue was the OSilas Gallery at Concordia College, Bronxville, New York in September 2019 and it is due to open in mid-January at The Vicki Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver, its sixth stop—vaults this category into a high echelon. Both the works of art that the catalogue documents and the essays that accompany them reflect the thoughtfulness of the collectors, their access to astute commentators, and, above all, their commitment to the artists they have acquired in the past two decades. In addition to being an illuminating index of a specific area of contemporary art, Young, Gifted, and Black—an allusion to playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s speech to winners of a United Negro College Fund writing prize, as well as a Nina Simone song—is also a revealing statement of a very considered approach to collecting.
Although named for both Bernard Lumpkin and his husband Carmine Boccuzzi, the collection is very much a testament to the former’s family history and involvement in the New York art scene. Lumpkin’s introductory essay is a very clear-eyed assertion of the role of a collector as patron, detailing how his approach to supporting artists has evolved over time, crystallizing in 2009 after the death of his father. Further, Lumpkin identifies the ways in which a collector exerts his influence by joining museum boards and actively engaging with a wider public, in effect, setting out a blueprint for the activist collector.
Providing further context for the pair’s aesthetic and institutional choices is Antwaun Sargent’s essay “Collecting Community” in which the curator (and now Gagosian director) balances a discussion of specific works, such as Henry Taylor’s The Sweet William Rorex, Jr. (2010), with an analysis of the broader themes of the more than four hundred works that constitutes the entire collection and how it relates to ‘a lineage of black collecting.’ Jessica Bell Brown, currently Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, explores the collection from the angle of ‘Kinship: New Genealogies in the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,’ and the volume closes with a conversation between Thelma Golden and Lumpkin. As he notes in his introductory essay, Golden and The Studio Museum of Harlem, where she is Director and Chief Curator and Lumpkin is a trustee, have been highly influential to Lumpkin’s approach to working with artists and sharing the collection. Their conversation is as much about The Studio Museum and its program as it is about Lumpkin as a collector.
The volume is handsomely designed by Miko McGinty with many full-page images of the artists organized alphabetically. Artists and curators alike provide short essays, poems and observations. While the catalogue leans towards painting and figuration, currently a much-explored category of the medium, the collection also includes sculpture, photography, works on paper, and conceptual works. The community emphasized both in Lumpkin’s introduction and Sargent’s essay is exemplified by the fact that Lumpkin and Boccuzzi have several examples of the work of painter Jennifer Packer, as well as Alex Bradley Cohen’s portrait of the artist. Lumpkin himself makes the observation that he and Boccuzzi prefer to collect an artist in depth, acquiring several works as a way of supporting emerging artists in a substantive manner. On 1 May 1964, Hansberry implored her audience to ‘Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention.’ Six decades later, the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi collection catalogue represents a visual equivalence for Hansberry’s passionate plea.