From left, Collectors Merele Williams-Adkins and Patrick McCoy.


PEOPLE ACCUMULATE ART in a variety of ways. The stories behind the art in their homes is often as fascinating as the works themselves. In 2016, the New York Times started asking art collectors to “Show Us Your Wall.” Readers get to see their art, how they display it, and learn a bit about the collectors—their lives and how they relate to the art they’ve acquired.

The feature generally focuses on New Yorkers who own blue-chip art. Although, this isn’t always the case. Collectors in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and London, have been highlighted. A Brooklyn collector who concentrates on work by emerging African photographers was recently a subject. Others have been dedicated to women artists and Afro-Cuban art. Sometimes the collectors are artists who acquire works through trades with other artists. Several collectors have been African American, including Denise and Gary Gardner, lead sponsors of the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Charles White: A Retrospective.”

The collections of playwright Lynn Nottage, artist Glenn Ligon, and the inimitable André Leon Talley have also been shared.

In Ligon’s Tribeca apartment, there is an eclectic selection of works he has purchased or acquired by swapping with fellow artists over the years. He doesn’t consider himself a collector though. He has a photograph of dancers at the Savoy by Roy DeCarava, works by Bill Traylor and Eadweard Muybridge, and a basketball drawing by David Hammons.

“What I loved is it has two dates—2004 and 2010. That is the year when he added a little electric clock on the back of the frame. If we’re quiet, we’ll actually hear it ticking. It’s called ‘Time Out’ and so much of David’s work for me is about language and puns,” Ligon told the Times about the Hammons work. “David is one of those artists who sparks the idea to come. That’s the reason to have a work of art. Besides the visual pleasure, it gives you ideas.”

“David [Hammons] is one of those artists who sparks the idea to come. That’s the reason to have a work of art. Besides the visual pleasure, it gives you ideas.” — Glenn Ligon

The artist, who is known for his text-based paintings and neon works that explore race and identity issues, said he has exchanged works with Lorna Simpson, Byron Kim, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and fashion designer Duro Olowu.


Brooklyn collector Stephanie Baptist (left) has turned her living room into a gallery. At right, Nancy Lane has a few works by Glenn Ligon and recently won a large-scale photograph by Yinka Shonibare at an auction benefitting the Studio Museum in Harlem. | Photos by Daniel Dorsa (2) via The New York Times


Earlier this year, Merele Williams-Adkins was profiled. The Brooklyn-based collector is the widow of artist Terry Adkins. Her husband’s work is on display in her Clinton Hill brownstone, along with works by artists such as Simpson, Ligon, and Charles Gaines, all family friends. The article was published during the last week of “Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled,” a survey of Adkins’s work at Lévy Gorvy gallery in New York.

THREE AFRICAN AMERICAN COLLECTORS were interviewed for the “Show Us Your Wall” series this month. Stephanie Baptist, is a cultural producer and editor. During a stint in London, she became interested in African photography and sought out lesser-known artists. After purchasing her first image by Hamidou Maïga, she continued to research and collect.

Baptist had moved to London in 2009. She earned a master’s degree in arts administration and cultural policy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and served as head of exhibitions and public programs at Tiwani Contemporary for three years, before returning to New York in 2014.

Now back in the states, she has turned her Brooklyn living room into a gallery called Medium: Tings. Her goal is to connect both experienced and novice collectors with emerging artists. The space is open on Sundays and by appointment. Recently, she has presented works by Marcus Leslie, Milo Matthieu, Austin Willis, and Arielle Bobb-Willis.

“I want to continue to facilitate conversations around emerging art practice specifically for artists of color, and to help individuals see themselves reflected,” Baptist told the Times.


In May, Nancy Lane bought Yinka Shonibare’s “Fake Death Picture (The Suicide — Manet),” 2011 (digital chromogenic print), at a Sotheby’s auction benefitting the Studio Museum in Harlem.


Patrick McCoy says he has more than 1,300 works of art in his apartment on Chicago’s South Side. He emphasizes that anyone can collect art—you don’t need to be wealthy, and big names aren’t necessary. If you like something, buy it, he said.

Anyone can collect art—you don’t need to be wealthy, and big names aren’t necessary. If you like something, buy it, Patrick McCoy said.

A retired chemist, McCoy co-founded a group for art collectors called Diasporal Rhythms. In October, a selection of works from their collections will be exhibited at the DuSable Museum of African American History. In conjunction with the show, some of the contributors are also opening up their homes for tours of their art collections.

Photographs of important cultural figures including Gordon Parks, Judith Jamison, Katherine Dunham, and Miles Davis, are among the 200 works of art in Nancy Lane‘s collection, which also includes paintings and sculpture. Works by Chakaia Booker, Awol Erizku, Sam Gilliam, Shinique Smith, and Yinka Shonibare, can also be found in her Greenwich Village apartment, where a series of six photographs by Carrie Mae Weems hangs above her sofa.

A former government affairs executive at Johnson & Johnson, Lane has focused most of her time on the arts since her retirement in 2000. For more than 40 years, she has been a board member at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Lane owns a few paintings by Ligon, too. “I like that he takes the words, and then turns them, for me, into feelings. And with the repetition, it just seems to intensify. So you read the phrase, ‘I feel most colored when I’m thrown against a sharp white background,’ and then he repeats it,” she told the Times. “In the repetition, what happens is, you begin to feel, how disturbing it is to be in this circumstance. That’s what I take away from that.” CT


TOP IMAGES: From left, Merele Williams-Adkins and Patrick McCoy. | Photos by Cole Wilson, Whitten Sabbatini via The New York Times


UPDATE (01/17/24): Since the publication of this post, Lorna Thomas, Olusanya Ojikutu, Arthur Lewis, James Little, have also been profiled in the Show Us Your Wall feature

READ MORE about the art collections of Bernard Lumpkin, Ellen Stern, Victoria Rogers, Monique and Ronald Ollie, Lyn and E.T. Williams Jr., Reginald Van Lee, Keith Rivers, and Desirée Venn Frederic and Tony Gyepi-Garbrah.


“Glenn Ligon: AMERICA” documents the Glenn Ligon’s 25-year survey exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. “David Hammons Is on Our Mind” is expected to be published at the end of this month. “David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble” explores two decades of work. Also consider “L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints.” This revised and expanded edition of “Yinka Shonibare MBE” is described as “most comprehensive resource available on Shonibare.” Another volume, “Yinka Shonibare: Criminal Ornamentation” is forthcoming in November.


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