This year the Harlem Fine Arts Show celebrated its 15th anniversary in New York City, bringing together black art gallery owners, art collectives and artists to celebrate 15 years of ensuring opportunities for Black Art to thrive. Buying Black Art or what is sometimes referred to as African Diaspora Art has become increasingly popular among both novice and seasoned collectors of all nationalities. Yet there is still a long road to inclusion…


 What is Happening in the Art World?

The Art World is constantly evolving with new trends and emerging issues brought on by societal changes such as environment justice, gender identity, and the political divide among many other issues. One of the most significant trends in the last 3 -5 years has been the growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion across racial and gender lines. In fact, African Diaspora Art is only likely to grow as the world becomes more culturally diverse. However, despite the recent growth among artists of color, most galleries and art institutions are still owned and controlled by American and European white individuals. Not having the same level of access to resources and opportunities makes it difficult for black and brown gallery owners and artists to break into and succeed in the industry. The more reason why art fairs such as Harlem Fine Art Show and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair are critical to black culture and history.


So, What About the Art Show?

For the first time, the show was not held in Harlem as it appears to have outgrown its space and is now housed in midtown New York at the Glass House. There were over 60+ Black gallery owners and artists exhibiting their works. Although small compared to most national art fairs, there was enough diversity from sculptures to drawings, paintings and photography combined with the use of wood, fabric, glass, and other recycled materials.

There were a good number of black artists, both young and old, marketing their own artwork. As always, when I write these stories, I like to spotlight artists whose work I find to be uniquely different and worthy of a shout out. Two artists that caught my eye and interest at this art fair are:

La’Jasha Champion-  I noticed this attractive Gen Z female stylishly dressed, smiling and greeting everyone that walked by her. I immediately introduced myself and learned she represents an entirely new generation of artists.  La’Jasha describes herself as an interdisciplinary artist combining multiple disciplines such as costume design, performance art, sound design, illustration, photography, videography, and 3D modeling. She does not hesitate to tackle many of the social issues that young Black Americans are experiencing. At a young age (20ish) she is already a designer entrepreneur combining art with fashion and technology as well as repurposing and upcycling fabrics. She clearly is part of the growing influence that technology is having among today’s younger generation affected by their environment and destined to changing the art world. There is a photo of La’Jasha and her artwork display, but to really understand her expansiveness as an upcoming artist, check out her website here.

 Sanusi Olatunji—I found Sanusi’s work uniquely different from much of the work at the art fair. He is Nigerian born, having studied in South Africa experiencing some success. Two galleries at the art fair carried pieces of his artwork along with his own solo exhibition entitled “No Parent is Perfect”. Sanusi creates collages from magazine paper or fabrics that perfectly mimic the stroke of a paintbrush. As you get closer to the artwork, you realize his drawings are not painted. The upcycling or recycling noted in his collage is what he referred to as the concept of “Waste is Wealth”.   

The solo exhibition “No Parent is Perfect” is a series of collage drawings that reflect the pain a child or a parent experiences when they are separated.  The challenges and reality of being a single parent or being restricted from seeing a child are the principal focus of this series. Using his collage technique, Sanusi combines shadow drawings of a child or parent that painfully reveal the loss of love between them. You can sense in his work the loneliness and despair of both a parent and child separation due to circumstances beyond a child’s comprehension.  I love the intensity of his work and meticulousness use of fabric or paper to replace a paint brush with such accuracy. I photographed several art exhibition pieces that I found intriguing along with others works by artists. However, to learn and see more of Sanusi’s work, click here.

Final Note: Today, Black and Brown artists are remaining committed to their art as they seek new venues to exhibit their work using both traditional and nontraditional approaches. Online opportunities have enabled many to sell their art, along with participating in collectives and art fairs. Many of us buy art as an investment (which is expensive and not as predictable). I always encourage folks to buy art that you love and enjoy seeing every day in your home.

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