Nish McCree is building a clever collection of contemporary African art and working to embolden artists across the continent in the process

It was while strolling along the National Mall in Washington, DC, in 2013, enchanted by the National Gallery of Art and the many monuments that line the capital’s long green park, that Nish McCree decided to make her dream come true. child to build an art collection. .

Given his great inspiration, it is perhaps not surprising that McCree’s fonds, which today number around 80 works, is less about private pleasure than the public mission: supporting artists as a means of social growth and economic in Ghana, where she now lives, and on the African continent at large.

A 2018 painting by Amoako Boafo from the McCree Collection. Courtesy of Nish McCree.

Over the past eight years, the Alabama-born international development professional has built a vibrant and powerful collection of contemporary art that includes portraits, collages and masks, with a particular focus on African women artists. She also has a knack for identifying talents before they hit the nail on the head: for example, she managed to buy a piece of work by Amoako Boafo in 2018 before her first major solo show, with Roberts Projects in LA.

Growing up as a black woman in the United States, “I always knew that I wanted to live on the continent and discover the origins of my African American heritage,” said McCree. After living in Tanzania on and off for 10 years, she moved in 2018 to Accra, where she continues to work in international development and collects with her husband, lawyer Ofotsu Tetteh-Kujorjie.

Anya Paintsil, <i>For Efia - Feeling Powerful With My Red Nails</i> (2019).  Courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art.

Anya Paintsil, For Efia – Feeling Powerful With My Red Nails (2019). Courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Art.

Over the past year, she has been particularly interested in mixed media artists who use found and natural materials “ubiquitous in the African context”, such as coconut bark, traditional African fabric, jute bags. cocoa and plastic and recycled materials. Recent acquisitions include works by Ghanaian Welsh textile artist Anya Paintsil, Ugandan Rwandan multimedia artist Collin Sekajugo and Ghanaian artists Adjei Tawiah, Aplerh-Doku Borlabi and Rufai Zakari.

In the absence of significant public funding for arts and culture, noted McCree, much of the African scene is characterized by artists supporting other artists, sharing studio spaces, and even collecting the works of both. others. In the same spirit, in July she launched Cowrie Culture, a digital art consultancy whose mission is to nourish the African art scene. Through the platform, it aims to provide artistic education and professional development programs to artists, collectors and cultural tourism professionals.

A work of Adjei Tawiah.  Courtesy of Nish McCree and Nii Odzema.

A work of Adjei Tawiah. Courtesy of Nish McCree and Nii Odzema.

While McCree’s ambitions remain global (in addition to inspiring others based in Africa to collect, she is also open to loaning her works abroad), her first collectible model was close to home. Her grandmother had an innate ability to decorate her home in Citronella, Alabama with folk art, jewelry, and other memorabilia. “I wanted,” said McCree, “one day also to live in the midst of a treasure of beautiful things, to honor them and to have them part of every day.”

A version of this article appeared in the fall of 2021 Artnet Intelligence Report, available in its entirety exclusively for Artnet News Pro Members. To learn more about the art collectors shaping the future, the technological tools set to revolutionize the art world, and how much money NFTs actually make for auction houses, Download the full report here. If you are not yet a member, you can subscribe here.

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