Wonderfully Made: The Anthony and Davida Artis Collection of African-American Fine Art

Saginaw Art Museum Showcases World-Class Exhibition from a Regional Collector

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 905   By: Robert E Martin

19th November, 2020     0

“The collector of today is looking for a figure of great aesthetic quality, rather than just what he can afford. The material you are working with has to move you - art has to be a physical, mental, and visual experience. A collector should not be concerned with whether the economy is high or low. He has developed beyond the  economic strata of the moment. Because art is never an extravagance.”   - Allan Chait

Proud to be from Flint and ‘hometown bred’, Anthony & Davida Artis began collecting fine African-American artwork back in 2009. Eleven years later, today their collection now totals more than 70 works - mostly prints, but also watercolors and drawings.

According to the couple, their focus is upon collecting artwork with themes of faith, family, and faces - the ‘Three F’s’ - as Anthony puts it.  “We want people to be moved and inspired by the work that we collect,” he states. But mainly, they are attracted to art that tells a story, especially as a means to educate, encourage, and engage the community.

Anthony and his wife Davida cofounded Dedicated Believers Ministries in 2014 and both serve as pastors. Anthony holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and Master’s in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan-Flint. He completed half of a Master of Divinity degree, majoring in theology and homiletics. Davida holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fisk University. Anthony and Davida married in 1992 and they have two adult sons, Blake and Isaiah.

Together they created The Anthony and Davida Artis Collection of African-American Fine Art, which is currently on display at The Saginaw Art Museum through February 28th.

According to Saginaw Art Museum Director, Michael Kolleth, “What excites me most about being able to feature this amazing exhibition is that Anthony and Davida have put together a world class collection of artwork with cultural resonance and historical importance.  There is a sense of focus and composition in each of the pieces they have purchased over a relatively short period of time; and they pulled it all together with strength of intelligence and wise investing.”

“Part of our message here at the Saginaw Art Museum is the ‘accessibility’ of art and the ability of people that live within our region to build their own collections of artwork,” he continues. “And what this couple have done is provide a spark of how to assemble a valuable collection of artwork.”

When asked how he first became interested in art collection, Anthony reflects about how he has worn many hats and learned many disciplines over this lifetime. “Presently I’m a pastor of a small church, but in the past I worked for an educational institution, I’ve worked in the private sector as an accountant, and I’ve worked in the public sector as an auditor for the IRS.  I’ve written grants for Big Brothers & Big Sisters and I know how to do budgets, financial statements, and how to approach valuation.  Exposure to each of these things helped teach me how to research and learn about art,” he explains.

Anthony says the first piece of original artwork he bought and later sold gave him enough sustenance to take care of his family for several months.  “That experience gave me the idea to build our collection around faith, family, and faces and take a thematic approach to our collection.”

“From the time we started collecting to right now we probably have about 80 pieces of art,” he notes. “Over that expanse of eleven years we’ve probably sold about another 30 or 40 pieces. The first piece of art we purchased for a few hundred dollars and later were able to sell it for $2700 dollars; most recently a piece we bought for $27,000 we were able to sell to a New York gallery for $120,000.  But the key to successfully building and marketing a good collection is research.”

“I won’t buy any piece of art that I don’t like, but each artist I do purchase I also tend to research,” continues Anthony. “I want to know the existing market and whether this artist even has an existing market.  Some of the artists I’ve purchased do not have an existing market, but I will help them out by purchasing their work because I don’t care about the resale. And sometimes when that happens you get a surprise. For example, one artist that was relatively unknown we supported and then years later he won a fellowship to an Italian Gallery and his work became more valuable and in-demand.”

When asked what the biggest challenge is moving forward with his collection, Anthony says it’s convincing his wife to buy the piece. “We don’t come from money, so as a business-minded person we want to buy low and sell high,” he reflects. “My wife likes to pay the bills or pay off a debt, so she’s more cautious about the works we acquire. But working together, this gives us stability. I believe in faith that we’ll be able to pay our house off this year with an auction that is coming up where we’re putting three pieces of our collection up for sale.  Once those sell, I think the proceeds we derive will be able to pay off our house.”

In terms of how he finds new up-and-coming artists that make solid ground-floor investment choices, Anthony says he relies upon galleries to a large degree.  “I’ll visit cities and people often take me to local galleries. Sometimes the significant artists are totally obvious; and sometimes not.  There are also good websites that sell artwork that you can use for research.”

Anthony also notes how some galleries may undervalue pieces you are trying to sell, or set higher commissions for the sale, but that again - it is important for the collector to do their research and also learn from experience. “Generally, I will stick close to the price I want for a piece of work that I sell.  Sometimes I regret discounting some of the pieces we sold years ago out of necessity, but you can’t cry over spilled milk.”

“Nowadays when purchasing art, I like to deal with the artist or the owner directly,” concludes Anthony. “Sometimes people are selling out of duress.  The Swann Gallery in New York is also a good place to broker through and a great way to get an idea about the valuation for various artists selling pieces.  Whenever I see something that I like come out at a low price, I jump on it.”

With a broad, varied, and compelling collection of African American Artwork that resonates on many levels, this current exhibition at the Saginaw Art Museum is well worth checking out, particularly if you’re tired of gambling on the stock market and might be considering investing in something concrete and durable that can deliver that invaluable asset of inspiration that one can enjoy 365 days of the year hanging on the walls of your own home.



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