Q&A: Art + Soul Honoree David Alan Grier

It’s almost time for the best party of the year, Art + Soul, celebrating the PAMM Fund for African American Art on Saturday, February 5, 2022. The cocktail reception and seated dinner is sold out but you can still get experience the “Reveal” and “Celebration,” where we’re honoring legendary actor, comedian, and avid art collector  David Alan Grier.

We sat down with Grier and dived into his career, his art collection, and his thoughts on Art + Soul.

What inspired you to start your career in the entertainment industry? 
I began acting in college at the University of Michigan. It was the first thing I felt I could dedicate my life to doing. 

David Alan Grier stars in the series “Joe Pickett.” Photo courtesy Spectrum.

Your successful career has led you to be featured in dozens of TV shows, films, theatre performances, and more throughout the years. What are some of your favorite projects? And what are some of your latest projects?
I’m currently in an hour TV drama called “Joe Pickett” where I play a retired game warden in a small Wyoming town. This is a character that slowly changes in front of your eyes. What is up becomes down. What was light becomes dark…a very interesting character to play. I also have a film coming out on Netflix called “They Cloned Tyrone” a darkly comic, sci-fi film with Jamie Foxx and John Boyega starring in it.

PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans, Thelma Golden, and Glenn Ligon at PAMM Art of the Party. Photo by WorldRedEye.com.

We hear you’re an art collector. Can you tell us about your collection and how you got involved in acquiring artwork?  
I started collecting art a little over 30 years ago. I initially thought I couldn’t afford to collect but as I read about collectors I saw that some were even teachers, postal workers, and librarians who over time were able to amass amazing collections, I finally saw a path for me. My first collections were of vintage Black movie posters from the ’20s and ’30s, mostly stone lithographs, but I slowly shifted to fine art prints and then paintings and works on paper of young and mid career artists I came to admire.

I’ve concentrated on living artists of color who are creating and commenting on the world in which we live. I missed seeing Thelma Golden’s Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art exhibit back in ’94 at the Whitney but I got her catalogue and used it as a reference guide of young Black artists I was interested in acquiring. Initially my budget was quite low but with time and patience I have been able to acquire quite a few interesting pieces. I became friends with Thelma and she introduced me to Glenn Ligon. She was very encouraging and me and taught a lot about what a patron of art really is. 

Still from David Alan Grier and Carrie Mae Weems conversation from Art21.

This may be a tough one to answer but what are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?  
My favorite pieces are usually the artist I’ve newly discovered or acquired. I have a photograph that was giving to me by Carrie Mae Weems who is a friend and an artist I have admired for years but I didn’t own any of her pieces. They were initially out of my price range. It is a piece I adore as it was a gift that I treasure. Another is a large slab painting by Kevin Beasley that I just acquired. 

We’re excited to honor you at this year’s PAMM Art + Soul event. What does it mean to you to be honored at this event? 
For years I classified myself as a “young collector,” but now I’m a long time art collector, I guess. When I was first contacted by the museum, I thought how much of a donation do they want or what painting would they want me to loan them, so I was pleasantly surprised when Franklin Sirmans told me the museum wanted to honor me. He is someone I’ve known for years and knows a little of my journey as a collector. I am humbled and thrilled to honored.

Don’t have your tickets yet? There’s still time to purchase them here.

Art + Soul 2019. Photo by WorldRedEye.com.

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