Friday, January 29, 2010

Paul Jones, in memoriam...this is a first inadequate sketch, with apologies for the sketchiness

I may yet post the autobiographical sketch I had promised Klimchak I would put up in this space (basically, it recounts all the people I have worked with who have equal claim to the Nexus Award, but somebody had to be shoved through the door first, and I am grateful to be one of the two inaugural recipients).

However, I cannot in good conscience say anything about myself at the moment when we all ought to be remembering the immense contributions (in more ways than one) of Paul Jones, the influential African-American collector of whose death some of us have just now learned.

I wrote more than once about exhibitions of the Paul Jones Collection, and was constantly astounded at his ability to extend recognition to emerging artists even while acquiring enough signature or unusual works by recognized figures to create not one creditable collection of African-American art, but two or more (considering that large parts of the collection were divided between two universities in Delaware and Alabama, and I presume he didn't stop acquiring work in his last years, though he and I lost touch with one another).

Since URL links drive me crazy, especially when they don't work, here is the basic text from the WSB website to which Judy Kuniansky so kindly directed us via the artnews listserv:

ATLANTA -- Paul R. Jones, a collector of African-American art who donated troves of works to universities in Delaware and Alabama, has died. He was 81.

Jones died in Atlanta on Tuesday after a brief illness, said University of Alabama spokeswoman Angie Estes. The university established an art collection in Jones' name after receiving some 1,700 pieces valued at $5 million in 2008.

Despite humble beginnings in Alabama and never independently wealthy, Jones began buying pieces in the 1960s after noting African-American art was underrepresented in public galleries.

As the drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works grew into the hundreds, part of his collection was exhibited at the University of Delaware in 1993. He later made a gift of several hundred works to the school.

"My goal has been to incorporate African-American art into American art," he told The Tuscaloosa News in 2008 when he made his donation to the University of Alabama with a plan for it to be part of the curriculum.

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