ARTNOIR IS AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE for artists, and serves as a nexus for curators and cultural producers. The global collective organizes artist talks, exhibition tours, studio visits, and a variety of other experiences designed to engage and educate a new generation of creatives and collectors.

ARTNOIR has partnered with museums and brands, Aperture, For Freedoms, Open House New York, and Black Lives Matter, and had an audience with Arthur Jafa at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. In February, ARTNOIR hosted a brunch during Frieze Los Angeles.


Lot 1: TIFFANY ALFONSECA, “Girl Talk,” 2020 (charcoal, oil sticks, acrylic paint and glitter on canvas, 24 × 20 inches / 61 × 50.8 cm).


“The goal has been about uplifting Black and Brown creatives, specifically visual artists,” Larry Ossei-Mensah, a co-founder of ARTNOIR, told Culture Type. “We have done some stuff with literary artists, musicians, dancers, and really celebrating work they are doing, particularly emerging artist more so than the boldface names.”

At its root, the group is about nurturing a community and over the past several months has switched gears in order to support its base. It’s been a challenging time, particularly for arts professionals early in their careers.

The group’s latest project is about sustaining the community and helping those facing economic challenges in the wake of the novel coronavirus, which has adversely affected artists, curators, and cultural producers of color who have experienced job losses, furloughs and layoffs, canceled contracts, reduced sales, and shuttered or postponed exhibitions.

In the works since April, ARTNOIR partnered with Artsy to launch From: Friends To: Friends, a benefit auction with proceeds providing seed funding for ARTNOIR’s Jar of Love Fund, a new microgrant program.

“We needed to step up in how we supported our community,” said Bronx, N.Y.-based Ossei-Mensah, an independent curator who works internationally. “How do we help people who are furloughed or have been laid off or need to buy materials?”

Twenty-six emerging artists donated art to the auction. Bronx-based Tiffany Alfonseca is a Dominican-American mixed media artist whose vibrantly colored figurative scenes celebrate the Black and Afro-Latinx diaspora. She contributed a painting titled “Girl Talk” (2020) to the auction.

“The goal has been about uplifting Black and Brown creatives, specifically visual artists… particularly emerging artist more so than the boldface names.” — ARTNOIR Co-Founder Larry Ossei-Mensah

Lot 4: ALANNA FIELDS, “Untitled II,” 2019 (archival inkjet print, wax and japanese kozo on panel, 6 × 8 inches / 15.2 × 20.3 cm).


Ghanaian-born Conrad Egyir lives and works in Detroit. His portraits explore identities, geographies and politics and use framing to define space and introduce text. “Golden Hair in Choir” (2020) and “Banors Capturing” (2020), two paintings by Egyir are offered in the auctioin. There are also works by Alanna Fields, Chase Hall, Fhatuwani Mukheli, Bianca Nemele, and Khari Turner for sale, among others.

The auction began June 24 and ends tomorrow, July 8. Twenty-nine works are for sale. Bids are currently ranging from less than $1,000 to about $5,000. A few lots have garnered higher bids. Alfonseca’s “Girl Talk” has been particular popular and reached $12,000.

Always mindful of the interests of artists, Ossei-Mensah sees the auction as a win-win for the donors. Their largesse is helping fellow artists and their participation brings attention to their work.

The contributing artists are all a part of ARTNOIR’s community, “relationships where we could pick up the phone and call them,” he said. “I think it just deepens their involvement in our journey and expands the exposure of these artists. Some of them don’t have galleries. They’ve just been putting in the work. They are slowly building momentum and we want to help amplify that as well.”

Once the auction concludes, ARTNOIR will embark on the next stage of the initiative: reviewing applications and distributing $500 unrestricted grants from the Jar of Love Fund in weekly tranches. Artists, curators, and cultural producers are eligible to apply.

The plan is to keep the program running through December. How many grants are distributed each week depends upon the amount raised from the auction and additional direct donations received.


Lot 7: CHASE HALL, “ill with reality,” 2020 (acrylic and coffee on cotton canvas, 10 × 8 inches / 25.4 × 20.3 cm).


FROM THE BEGINNING, ARTNOIR has been about building a community. It started in 2013 as a casual coming together among friends, creatives in New York attending artist talks as a group or meeting up at exhibitions. They planned field trips, too.

“I would send an email to friends and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to the Barnes Foundation (in Philadelphia) to see Yinka Shonibare,'” Ossei-Mensah said. “People would go, ‘Oh wow, that’s cool.’ They may know him or they may not know him. But they know it’s an opportunity to fellowship with other young professionals and have this experience.”

By 2015, ARTNOIR began organizing events, including a talk with artists Wangechi Mutu and Julie Mehretu at NeueHouse in New York. The group has collaborated with Mickalene Thomas, Nina Chanel Abney, and Derrick Adams. The group has also created city guides with recommendations for what to see and where to eat, shop, and play to accompany the 57th Carnegie International in Pittsburgh and Art Basel Miami Beach.

A nonprofit was established in 2017. In addition to Ossei-Mensah, the co-founders include Carolyn Concepcion, Jane Aiello, Isis Arias, Mell Hock, Danny Baez, and Nadia Nascimento. ARTNOIR remains a community that has evolved and has a vision—providing connections, opportunities, support, and a platform for expression.

ARTNOIR prides itself on making the art world accessible. “It’s about creatig a safe space for these engagements,” Ossei-Mensah said. “Oftentimes, if you are part of a museum group and they’re going to do a tour of Theaster Gates show, you go with excitement but it doesn’t feel as homey and intimate. For us, we want this to feel homey and intimate and we also want the artist to feel comfortable and share things they might not normally share.” These efforts have continued in recent month with some modifications.


Lot 12: BIANCA NEMELC, “Came to Collect My Fruit,” 2020 (Pastel on Paper, 12 × 16 inches / 30.5 × 40.6 cm).


“During COVID, one thing we’ve done is we’ve ramped up our digital offering,” he said. “We’ve been doing these virtual studio visits every Thursday.”

Last week, ARTNOIR visited with Patrick Alson, a Bronx-based abstract artist, via Instagram Live. The week before, Shinique Smith, participated from Los Angeles. For about two decades, Smith has worked with clothing, textiles and objects, “belongings” used to assemble paintings, sculptures, and installations that operate at the “convergence of consumption, displacement, and sanctuary.”

For 30 or 40 minutes, the virtual visits give artists a chance to discuss their practice and share their work. “Artists open up about how they’ve been navigating this moment and people have found it insightful. Some artists have been able to sell work,” Ossei-Mensah said.

These unsettling times and the challenges that have developed in the wake of COVID-19, police killings, racial justice protests, and reckoning with racist culture in museums have also prompted ARTNOIR to ramp up direct support for artists via the From: Friends To: Friends auction. Ossei-Mensah hopes to garner widespread interest from bidders.

“The other thing I was recogniziing is people were being quiet about their financial situation, which is normal,” he said. “But I think we need to get comfortable about asking for support, asking for help, whatever that looks like, because that’s the only way we are going to be able to navigate this uncertainty.” CT


FIND MORE about ARTNOIR From: Friends To: Friends: Benefit Auction 2020 on Artsy



FIND MORE about the Jar of Love Fund


Lot 13: CONRAD EGYIR, “Golden Hair in Choir,” 2020 (oil and mixed media on canvas, 22 × 18 inches / 55.9 × 45.7 cm).


Lot 17: BONY RAMIREZ, “The House I Burned/The House I Built,” 2018 (ceramic, Ceramic Glaze, Pink Pakistanian Marble, 9 × 4 1/2 inches, 22.9 × 11.4 cm).


Lot 22: BAHAR BAMBI, “Break The Pattern,” 2020 (oil and acrylic spraypaint on wood, 19 7/10 × 23 3/5 inches / 50 × 60 cm).


Lot 23: KHARI TURNER, “Auntie Kisses,” 2020 (oil, Acrylic and Oil Stick on canvas, 36 × 24 inches / 91.4 × 61 cm).


Lot 24: DEVIN B. JOHNSON, “Untitled Study,” 2020 (oil monoprint on paper, 12 × 9 inches / 30.5 × 22.9 cm).


Lot 27: AMY BRAVO, “Vaquero as Retablo,” 2020 (acrylic, oil stick, colored pencil, pastel and found object, 16 × 9 inches / 40.6 × 22.9 cm).


Lot 30: FHATUWANI MUKHELI, “Swim Good,” 2019 (charcoal and acrylic paint on achievable paper, 23 2/5 × 33 1/10 inches / 59.4 × 84.1 cm).


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