The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, which has received more than $1.5 million in Knight Foundation funding over the years, opened a new exhibit over Halloween weekend: “Collect: The Power of Knowing,” curated by Dr. Cledie Collins Taylor. The exhibit showcases an eclectic group of art objects that come from various collections of African art, including a number of personal collections that would be otherwise difficult for the public to access.
The result is a varied cross-section of objects, which run the gamut from historical artifacts to stained glass windows to contemporary pieces by living artists still practicing today. Through a series of interviews captured in a video that accompanies the exhibit, “Collect” converts the personal tastes and whims of individual collectors into a form of zeitgeist structured around specific item types–chairs and thrones, helmets and masks, a variety of paintings.
“Every story was different and heartfelt. When editing the interviews, I was able to see the differences and similarities in their stories and gain a better understanding of why Dr. Taylor picked each of these collectors to display a piece,” says Richard Reeves, who created the video.
One living artist whose work is included in the show is David Philpot, whose impressive timepiece-encrusted seat, “Who’s Watching Who,” sits right at the center of the exhibition. The work features Philpot’s trademark tendency for decorative embellishment and object repetition—detailing most often seen adorning his staffs and walking sticks. Like most of the chair-forms on display in the exhibit, Philpot’s piece carries a regal gravitas, which instinctively suggests a throne of some kind.