Peggy Cooper Cafritz’s groundbreaking art collection focuses on works by artists of African descent. It’s like a who's who of black artists from the 20th and 21st centuries: Romare Bearden, Alma Thomas, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley, who recently painted President Obama’s official portrait.
For many of the artists in her collection, she was an early patron whose support helped make their careers possible.
We planned to speaker to Cafritz about her book documenting the collection, "Fired Up! Ready to Go! Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art," and arranged for an interview in her home while touring the collection.
Before that could happen, Cafritz died of pneumonia on February 18.
Courtesy of Rizzoli
So, instead, we reached out to two friends who knew her well, artist and 2017 MacArthur Genius Fellow Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem.
“Peggy is the collector every artist dreams about. She really cares about the artist she collects,” Akunyili Crosby recalls. “It wasn't like she bought a piece and vanished. She bought a piece and still you know showed that this was not about wanting your work: ‘I care about you as a person and I believe in you and I love you and I want you to do well.’”