Art Collector Donates Extensive Collection of African American Art to University of Delaware
A prominent collector of works by modern Black artists says integration was the reason he chose the University of Delaware, and not a historically Black college, as the home for his 1,000-piece collection.
The collection was given to the university by Paul R. Jones, 72, who has been hanging and displaying the paintings, sculptures and photographs in his increasingly crowded Atlanta home. Jones says he chose the University of Delaware because of the reputation of the school’s art studies program.
“My major consideration is to see us weave Afro-American art into American art, instead of treating it as something on a dotted line completely separate and distinct,” Jones says.
Jones says he sees the display of the works by Black artists treated simply as mainstream art as the ultimate act of integration — an area, he says, where further advancement is needed.
“Look at my Charles White work ‘John Henry’ versus a Van Gogh,” Jones says. “If my Charles White is worth $1 million and a Van Gogh is worth $80 million, is it really 80 times better?”
In addition to White, the collection includes works by Herman “Kofi” Bailey, David Driskell, Elizabeth Catlett, Earl Hooks, Leo Twiggs, Stanley White, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, P.H. Polk and Selma Burke, who is known for creating the image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that appears on dimes.
The collection will be the centerpiece of the university’s new Center for the Study of American Material Culture.
Jones amassed the collection on a middle-class income working as a race-relations specialist in government programs such as Model Cities. Jones, who once managed an integrated Birmingham, Ala., restaurant during the civil rights movement, said he began with a limited budget, spending at most a few hundred dollars on each piece.
Jones said he began collecting “to fill the gap where museums were not acquiring art by African Americans.
“The major art galleries were not including artists of color, with the exception of a blockbuster show every four or five years. I decided to focus on those artists, to expose them to the art world and the world of collecting and also to impact their futures,” Jones says.
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