National Black Fine Art Show — 13 Turns Out To Be A Lucky Number

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to have Tyrus Rochell Townsend from the blog I.Heart.Art and The.Noir.Arts.Gallery write this review for us. His bio state “I believe I teach and reach the masses through my words and my aura.  I love, live, become and support art.

National Black Fine Art Show

Last night, the 13th Annual National Black Fine Art Show (NBFAS) held its Gala Preview to benefit The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The show presents exceptional work by African, African-American and Caribbean artists.

On what was a bone chilling evening, I left Harlem not for the show’s usual destination The Puck Building, (where the show had been held for the last several years) but for 7 West 34th Street which faces The Empire State Building near Herald Square and Macy’s. The building is centrally located in midtown Manhattan and easily accessible from all parts of the city.

This year marks the 13th year of this show and proved to be the best thus far. The show offers original artwork by African, African American and Caribbean artists from every genre. Splashes of ethnic color are splattered on canvases for display; think fiery reds, oranges and yellow to cool greens, blues and grays. Forty exhibitors hailing from the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean displayed works from Edward BannisterHenry TannerRomare BeardenElizabeth Catlett (who was also present on a nationally televised NAACP Image Awards ceremony last night), Dianne SmithDanny SimmonsTafa and many others. Original works from various media including paintings, photography, mixed media, sculpture, and limited edition prints are all for sale to the highest bidder.

If you’re like me (sometimes your money is funny), this is the time where I feel privileged to purchase a piece of work from either a favorite or an emerging artist. Some people purchase stock, I purchase art. I ran into a fellow art enthusiast and we chatted about the pricing of the works. He stated, ” Thank God for payment plans as he chuckled heartily. I will be in Las Vegas for a conference this year so I will see a majority of these galleries and then I would have saved as well as made my decision on which works I will purchase.” As I secretly eyed an Elizabeth Catlett drawing from a distance (the amount was 5 times my mortage) I continue to look for more affordable pieces within my budget.

The key to great collecting is to buy small and stick with particular artists that you like. I would advise you to do your research before attending a show. (The Studio Museum in Harlem has a seminar on art collecting tonight.) Normally, true art collectors save their coins and instead of purchasing a number of prints, they buy the original. With the purchase, the great feeling is lasting and proves to be a much more solid investment. A portion of last night’s proceeds went to The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a valuable asset to not only the Harlem community but to the world. Many of the shows artists have a connection to the Schomburg.

Averlyn Archer, Director of Harlem’s
Canvas Paper and Stone Gallery

Of the many galleries present, Harlem’s Canvas Paper and Stone Gallery proved to be a standout amongst other big names present. Averlyn Archer, Director, stated, ” Most of the artists like Aleathia BrownDiane Davis, and Brian “Strong-Wind” Williams are first time artists whom we represent with pride. Brian’s focus is “photo healing” which is meant to portray positive imagery instead of relying on modern amenities. Brian is part Native American so this goes hand in hand with the philosophy of most tribes mantra. Many of Canvas’ artists are either members of The Harlem Arts Alliance or work out of studios located in Harlem. “On the other hand, you have a legendary artist such as Emmett Wigglesworth who is a member of the Weusi Art N.Y.C so the diversity and variety of artists represented by the gallery is enormous across the board.”

Harlem artist Manuel Hughes spoke of the importance of inspiration. ” I wanted to create something that infused my Old Master technique of creating still-life with a contemporary subject. For instance, this painting is a still life of Clorox bottles that I painted in a repetitive manner. Also, I have studios in Harlem as well as Paris so my inspiration spills over from antiques, African American representation, old dolls and tin cans.”

Another amazing aspect of the show was the many “virgin” exhibitors who finally found the courage to venture from various locations and received nothing but love and encouragement upon arrival. You can always spot the first timers are they are normally wide-eyed, drooling and smiling throughout the duration of the 3 day event.

Dr. Lammie-Hanson ( represented by La Nna Fine Art), who has been painting for 20 years, said, ” I’ve been wanting to be apart of NBFAS for such a long time and it feels good to see the wealth, beauty and quality of work present. When I moved to Atlanta, I decided that I would pursue painting full-time and it has proven to be successful. I started out exhibiting in bars, restaurants and lounges and now I am here.” Dr. Lammie-Hanson paints in the genre of Fine Abstract Portrait and Figurative Art.

Another “virgin” present was the collaborative team of Channel 1 Gallery and Umbrella Arts. Mary Ann Fahey was excited about being amongst the plethora of galleries and eagerly explained to me Umbrella Arts purpose for being there. “We present the best in contemporary art: Katro Storm, Dooley-O and Cey Abram. What we are most proud of are the artists that make up Senu Foco. These individuals represents the best in diversity and judging by their work no one will ever know they were all visually impaired. They are all well-established artists so it should not be a problem selling these pieces at any price.”

A veteran of this industry as well as NBFAS, Garbo Hearne of Hearne Fine Art, states ” I have been in the business for 20 years yet I have only showed 12 times. We represent the very best from Contemporary Black Masters to Emerging artists.” She immediately runs back and shows me her book that the gallery just published titled “Collaborations: Two Decades of African American Art, Hearne Fine Art: 1988-2008.” She encourages me to read and as I am flipping through the book I run across a photography of 4 young children. I inquire about the photo and she exclaims with much pride ” those are my four children and I am proud to display my work. My daughter, who is now a senior in college majoring in art history, even wrote the dedication in the back of the book.” Judging from the array of art that occupies the 4 walls she was allotted it is very easy to say her longevity not only stems from hard work but excellent choices in artists in which to represent.

Overall, this show represents the best of the best hands down! No one longs to become America’s Next Top Black Gallery for all are winners in this game. The benefits are exposure, cash and recognition but the real reward is longevity and a legacy that will follow forever. See you again at the shows this weekend!

The show runs through Sunday. To view more photos from the show, click here for our Flickr page. For more information on the National Black Fine Arts Show, visit or call 212-295-5257.