Simple Passion, Complex Vision

The Darryl Atwell Collection

Exhibition Website

 For hundreds of years artists have relied upon patronage to persist. In the European Medieval period the Church was the major patron of the arts for murals, paintings, sculptures, and architecture. During the Renaissance era, secular patrons like the Medici family began to commission art from great artists. In West Africa, religious institutions in large societies along with royalty often financed the production of art. That support is the primary reason we have wonderful works in expensive materials such as bronze and ivory from places like the Benin kingdom (1300-1897). This is why the Vatican and the palace at Benin have been great repositories of amazing art, as have been concentrations of great art in the collections of private collectors like the Medici family or the Rockefeller family in 20th century America.

Only within the last 100 years or less have we seen the growth of outstanding collections of African American art by Historically Black institutions such as Hampton University or Howard University, and those of collectors like David Driskell, Walter Evans and others. The Harvey B. Gantt Center is devoting the coming year to African-American art collections and Darryl Atwell’s unique collection is the opening exhibition in this series.

Atwell has amassed in a very short period of time a truly impressive collection. The collection reflects his strong personal tastes and has developed with a focus upon younger, contemporary artists working more in abstract and conceptual modes. He has eschewed the ‘usual suspects' found in many collections and he has gone beyond collecting works on paper and has gathered an impressive array of sculpture, large paintings, and unusual media expressions by rising stars. 

Atwell has collaborated with former NBA player and avid art collector, Elliott Perry of Memphis, TN, in a most unusual partnership driven by shared passion and information sharing. His entry into the world of visual art began during his early days of medicine in Cleveland, Ohio and, with much study, conversation, and involvement, has led to one of the most unique and impressive collections in the country. We are excited to host this collection for public viewing and we invite you to experience it firsthand in July.

We also will feature a number of events and programs for your enjoyment around the theme of collecting African American art throughout the coming year. Please join us as often as you can

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website 

  • Various Media
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Various artists

Exhibition Venues & Dates