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Collector Kent Kelley on Supporting the Brilliance of Black Emerging Artists

The Atlanta, Georgia-based collector Kent Kelley is determined to make a difference in the art space. Collectors can do much to help promote the industry, he explains: “They need to come together with their peers to train new collectors and work closely with museums and galleries to support the brilliance of black new talent. . ”

Now CFO of software company Unanet, Kelley observed art from a young age. He is the son of an artist mother who died when he was 14. A decade or so later, in the early 2000s, he acquired a pair of works of art for the sole purpose of decorating his home; among them were works by and Susan St. James. He started taking collection more seriously in 2015, and now artists like,, and play an integral role in Kelley’s collection. He is looking for work of historical significance, although his collecting practice is generally driven by passion. Kelley buys the work he really enjoys.

At the same time, he focuses as a collector on the idea of leave– his own legacy, but also the legacy of city-influenced art, of the African diaspora, and of individuals who have fought for liberation. Cultural preservation is crucial to Kelley’s approach, as is the growing awareness of black contemporary artists. He stresses that he is not in the industry to sell his work one day, but to promote the legacy of artists he admires. He hopes to one day pass on his works to future generations with the goal of ensuring that each piece rests in the hands of institutions that focus on African-American and African diasporic communities.

Collectors, Kelley explains, have the task of both protecting the culture and keeping it accessible, tasks he intends to continue to pursue. He has an affinity for lending and gifting pieces from his collection to institutions and a desire to draw more black collectors into the market. Ultimately, Kelley will pursue any path that allows him to help support new artists. We recently spoke with Kelley to learn more about his collection and what it means for him to be a collector.


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