Collector Kent Kelley on supporting the brilliance of emerging black artists

Atlanta, GA-based collector Kent Kelley is determined to make a difference in the art world. Collectors can do a lot to move the industry forward, he explains: “They need to rally with their peers to educate new collectors and work closely with museums and galleries to support the brilliance of emerging talent. black. ”

Now CFO of software company Unanet, Kelley observed artistic creation from a young age. He is the son of an artist mother, who died at the age of 14. About ten years later, in the early 2000s, he acquired some works of art, with the sole aim of decorating his house; among them were works by Susan St. James. He started taking the collection more seriously in 2015, and now artists like,, and play a vital role in Kelley’s collection. He seeks work with historical significance, although generally his practice as a collector is motivated by passion. Kelley buys the job he really loves.

Simultaneously, as a collector, he focuses on the idea of heritage—Its own heritage, but also the legacy of urban art, the African diaspora and the individuals who fought for liberation. Cultural preservation is central to Kelley’s approach, as is the growing awareness of contemporary black artists. He emphasizes that he is not there to sell his work one day, but to promote the legacy of artists he admires. He hopes to one day pass his works on to future generations, with the goal of ensuring that each piece rests in the hands of institutions focused on African-American and African communities in the diaspora.

Collectors, Kelley explains, are charged with both protecting culture and keeping it accessible, businesses he intends to pursue. He has an affinity for lending and donating pieces from his collection to institutions, and a desire to attract more black collectors to the market. Ultimately, Kelley will pursue any avenue that allows her to help support emerging artists. We recently caught up with Kelley to find out more about his collection and what it means for him to be a collector.

James C. Tibbs