(K. Brent Tomer),
THROUGHOUT history artists’ canvasses have mostly been stretched on a frame. “Carousel Change” is an exception. This work, painted by Sam Gilliam in 1970, hangs loosely from five knots, a mass of glowing pink, yellow and orange folds like a partly gathered sail. It hangs in the California home of Pamela Joyner, a prominent collector of African-American art. Nicholas Cullinan, who has curated several important American art exhibitions, calls Mr Gilliam “one of America’s greatest living abstract painters”. Which will surprise some, because even in the art world there are those who do not know of the 82-year-old African-American.
Ms Joyner is one of several private collectors who are pushing museums to show more work by black Americans—not just by today’s superstars, but also by their forgotten predecessors. Their efforts are paying off. In 2015 the Obamas hung a new acquisition, a radiant circle painting by Alma Thomas, a pioneering abstract artist, in a prominent position in the White House (pictured). Placed near works by Josef Albers and Robert Rauschenberg, two white men who are much more famous, it was a statement.