Tina Knowles Lawson, mother of Grammy-winning musical artists Beyoncé and Solange, has been collecting art since she was a makeup artist in her late teens, purchasing her first work for $500. Today, her collection, rich in African American art, boasts pieces by major figures, such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett, to work by more emerging artists like Genevieve Gaignard and Toyin Ojih Odutola.
Her famous daughters have both clearly inherited their mother’s appreciation of art. Solange has performed in New York at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, in London at the Tate Modern, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she recently debuted the interdisciplinary performance project Metatronia (Metatron’s Cube).
Beyoncé’s forays into the art world have been even more high profile, visiting and taking photos at the Louvre with husband Jay-Z and then returning to shoot the music video for the debut single, “Apeshit,” from their surprise joint album, Everything Is Love. The video notably highlights depictions of African Americans in the Louvre collection, in essence staking a claim for the black community in the hallowed halls of Western culture.
“I think it was important to my mother to surround us with positive, powerful, strong images of African and African American art so that we could reflect and see ourselves in them,” Beyoncé told the New York Times last year. (That appreciation is already being passed down to the younger generation, with Blue Ivy Carter placing a winning $10,000 bid for a painting at the Wearable Art Gala in Los Angeles back in March.)
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Lawson confirmed that she made a conscious effort to do so, saying “when my kids were growing up, it was really important to me that they saw images of African-Americans.”
The magazine got a tour of Lawson’s house and spoke with her about her collection. Putting it together has not always gone smoothly, she admitted, describing a disastrous first-time experience bidding by phone at auction: “[The] next thing I know I bought a Sam Gilliam, I bought two Picasso lithographs. I was like, ‘What did I do?’ I tried not to buy them, but they found me and they threatened to sue me.”
Other names in Lawson‘s holdings, include Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hale Woodruff, Charles Alston, Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle, Kermit Oliver, Monica Stewart, John Biggers, and Dominique Beyoncé, Lawson’s niece.
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