By Vanessa Infanzon
A week after AAA Members Judith and Patrick Diamond married in 1973, they hopped on an airplane to Tanzania, Africa. They volunteered for one year through a Harvard University program. While there, they purchased local African carvings and paintings to give to family and friends when they returned.
Unintentionally, collecting art became a theme in the couple’s marriage. For more than 46 years, the Diamonds collected 120-130 images from 40 to 50 different artists including Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green and Jacob Lawrence. This lifelong journey is the subject of Patrick Diamond’s first book, The Incredible Joy of Collecting African American Art – My Journey from Frog Town, S.C. to the National Gallery.
When the Diamonds returned from Africa, they bought framed prints by African American artists to decorate their apartment and then their first home in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
“We didn’t see ourselves as collectors, per se,” Patrick says. “But over time, as our interest got somewhat compulsive, we found ourselves visiting museums and commercial galleries for the first time. Many of those commercial galleries would introduce us to the artists they represented.”
After a few years in Massachusetts, the Diamonds’ careers took them to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago and Winston-Salem. In 2007, they returned to Charlotte for Patrick to take on the role as the development director for what is now called the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. No matter where they lived, the Diamonds traveled, “chasing artists and museums,” Patrick says. On several occasions, they had to call AAA to replace a battery or tow the car to a service station.
“We found ourselves meeting the most important African American artists of the 20th century,” he said. “[We spent] time with Romare Bearden right here in his hometown of Charlotte. We got overwhelmed with this new interest in collecting art that represented our heritage, our culture, and the cherry on the top was meeting some of these extraordinary and important artists.”
In 1995, by luck and happenstance, Patrick purchased Bearden’s collage, Girl in the Pond. In 2003, he was contacted by the National Gallery of Art. They were doing an historic exhibit, The Art of Romare Bearden with 131 of Romare Bearden’s work, and wanted to include Girl in the Pond. This would be the National Gallery’s first solo display featuring an African American artist.
“Collectors have a story they like to share,” Patrick says. “That’s my story.”
You can find Patrick’s book in several bookstores, galleries and museums. Visit IncredibleJoyofCollecting.com for more information.
(Photo by Vanessa Infanzon)