The Art Collector

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

-The Holy Christian Scriptures-

-The King James Version-

Genesis 1:26-28

The Art Collector

To Massa’s chagrin, the canvas is rent. While procurement of the MassaPiece was secured with meager pence of filthy lucre, it arrived at America’s southern colonial ports as a premier hot commodity.  Acquisition of this priceless artwork would prove to be the engine of the south’s economic growth (while concurrently augmenting the north’s wealth) long before the onset of the industrial revolution.  This commodity’s yield infinitesimally exceeded its acquisition price.  Having a sharp eye for fine collectibles, Massa evolved into a shrewd and savvy art collector. Nevertheless, there was no standard correlation between the exquisite art that Massa collected and the fine paintings displayed on the premise walls of the Southern colonies’ elite.  As such, Massa was proud of the choice pieces that he had acquired. His strategy for selecting artwork was less about aesthetics and more about structural characteristics including overall dimensions such as height and width, symmetry, fertility, sweep and muscularity of each piece. 

Massa’s artful eye was steadfastly fixated on the effigies’ forms as he examined each piece of a collection as if it were beasts of burden rather than the sheep of God.  While the artwork arrived with scant documentation or cataloguing, Massa submitted the winning bid for several pieces within a preeminent collection. Upon completion of the purchase transaction, Massa gathered his artwork for transport to his unique art gallery. Upon arrival, Massa ordered descriptive markings to be placed on each piece for inventory reconciliation, tracking purposes and proof of ownership. Massa’s first acquisition was a phenomenal MassaPiece (circa 1619).  As an original, it arrived with a designation as a member of an impressive canon. However, with total disregard for the original artiste, Massa seized the liberty to rename each acquired piece as if he were the original Master Artist. ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’ were commonly used to reference the pieces.

The exquisite fine art pieces were predominantly placed on display in various outdoor plantation galleries located in the southern colonies. With rapidity, these art acquisitions became the “it” investment for wealth building.  So, without fear or trepidation, Massas became cotton and sugar cane barons and the like by quickly seizing ownership of that which became the bedrock of wealth for the southern colonies. Literally, the art trade was the major source for rigorous capitalism in the southern colonies as the ROI for each acquisition was exponential (from 1619 to 1865).  To the dismay of many art curators, demand intermittingly exceeded supply.  Upon their arrival to America’s ports, the treasures were often over exposed partly due to unfavorable transit storage conditions. Quantity available for auction was a function of beginning quantity less the number of pieces rendered unsalvageable due to irreparable damages occurring during transit, or those otherwise lost at sea during the Trans-Atlantic voyage.  Perhaps, this maritime activity was the first to earn the Atlantic notoriety as an oceanic necropolis of lost treasure before the tragic sinking of The Titanic (1912).

These early acquisitions were prototypical of the core of the southern states’ capitalist infrastructure.  Whereas, the living treasures’ origin was Africa’s Gold Coast, each had intrinsic value more precious than gold. Fueled by lust for mammon, many collectors tried this precious gold in fire, figuratively speaking, thereby, melting the pieces down to stimulate an acute burgeoning of liquid assets.  

Massa presented the winning bid on several exquisite MassaPieces that survived the perils of the Atlantic transit.  Descriptively, his newly acquired art collective included imageries of persons that were fearfully and wonderfully crafted and created by the artiste of artistes, GOD.  Massa’s vast plantation with its luscious greenery and expansive cotton parcels served as the backdrop for the prominently displayed artistry that was showcased for all visitors or passersby to admire.  His stock’s production value elevated Massa’s socio-economic standing and thus served as the principal underpinning of his splendid wealth.  As such, Massa’s portfolio represented a modest investment contrasted to the manifold wealth that it would yield (ROI).  Massa was able to accrue a fortune that would be the nexus of the wealth bequeathed for generations to come. His success had given way to a new persona of the ‘apotheosis’ (elevated to rank of a god) of the plantation chattels, the slaves. Unfortunately, after over 200 years of compounded earnings, Massa’s offspring’s future earnings from the art trade are at risk.

As forecasted, a destructive storm was approaching that could threaten the value and the very disposition of the art works.  The storm advanced by the militia could result in a presidential mandate to relinquish all human-like art work.  While Massa’s art collection was known to be acquired via aberrant transactions; it had morphed into an accepted institution.  However, Massa’s efforts to preserve it for infinity were in the end futile. While it remained intact, however, it was the classic exemplar for many of the day’s thematic artwork. 

Notwithstanding, during the art trade’s heyday, artwork originating from African procreant artisans continued to be a hot commodity.   Many art collectors benefitted from acquiring similarly valued artwork from various African continental sources.  Replicas were so well crafted that even the best trained eyes perceived them as originals.

Prior to the historical storm, rather than display their renderings in specialized art galleries, most African art collectors displayed many of their acquisitions in fields, stables, special quarters and such. The more prolific collections were displayed in the fields, while the paintings with less saturated hues (a mulatto hue) were often cryptically displayed in the main house.

To prevent his originals from being confiscated or torn asunder, Massa, being the all wise one, begrudgingly stowed a remnant of his collection in a cleverly disguised location.  He tucked it away for safekeeping to be resurrected at the appointed season.  

Post- reconstruction, the members of Massa’s clan were at odds about the disposition of the preservation site.  Some wanted the remnant to remain stowed away with its history sealed, undisturbed, and vowed to be dissociative of it. Others, waxed nostalgic by proudly boasting of their heritage, and schemed to unearth it, rename it, and restore it to its original splendor. They envisioned a massive unveiling with private auctions open exclusively to the elite class. Yet, another group wanted to divorce itself from it by either denying their family’s claim to the collection or effectively sanitizing its ownership/possession.  Still another faction wanted to exhume it, to publically acknowledge many of their fore-father’s sins of acquiring the over-stretched canvases and to seek solidarity with the black sheep of the family.   Nonetheless, the majority had no desire to identify and locate the “other” true descendants that had purposely been omitted from the conversation.  Why, such revelations might allow the “others”, via bloodwork and advanced DNA testing, to lay claim to an heir’s inheritance, notwithstanding the fact that it could create a blot or blemish on the family’s sterling historical legacy.  Furthermore, certain politically correct members or deniers preferred to disassociate with the horrors associated with the portraits. They simply addressed it by declaring, “I never owned any ill-gotten “African artwork!” Curiously, they refute any association with the art acquisition, albeit, they never refused the bounteous financial dividends and social status derived from the illicit ownership of their forefathers’ lucrative investment(s).  As such, naturally, they basked in the exponential increase of the power of white privilege while simultaneously masking their cognitive dissonance in respect to their affinity with the source of the benefits.

With unmetered determination, a segment of Massa’s known prodigy yearned for the human landscape of ‘the good ol’ days ‘ and worked feverishly to reprise the ancient relic for nationwide display.  They urged that the artifacts be restored to their proper place and that their family reclaim its rightful standing in society.  Naturally, the collections would be reconstituted. It would be a diverse collection consisting of Africana/Americana productions.  These extant originals would be curated as commissioned by law.  The reprisal would be entitled “Jim Crow”. While the more contemporary collection would capture the essence of the original, some glaring differences would exist. For example, the reproductions were required to be displayed in background.  The exhibits had to be relocated to designated areas.  The artwork was disallowed in most public institutions and facilities. Moreover, its extrinsic value was equally inferior to its intrinsic value.  In response to the flurry of demand, however, the government granted the majority’s request.  “Jim Crow” was commissioned to reverse the disposition of in-country African art restoration, while disallowing prominent display of its renderings throughout the land from 1877 to 1954.    Enter JIM CROW.