Collector Stories: Bill Arnett

Collector Stories: Bill Arnett
2 February 2015 Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson
Bill Arnett is an Atlanta-based writer, editor, curator and art collector who has built internationally important collections of African, Asian, and African American art over the last 40 years. He has exhibited works from those collections and delivered lectures at over 100 museums and educational institutions in the United States and abroad.

The story Bill shares with Young Art Collector about how he got into art collecting is a path with many winding roads that have resulted in a warehouse full of some of the most important art in America. Over 30 years ago, he committed himself to documenting the artists of the American South, those with no connections to the art world, but had created art (sculpture, painting, collage and mixed media) from found objects in protest and in relief from everyday life in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. Among the most celebrated artists of Bill’s collection are Thorton Dial, Purvis Young and Lonnie Holley.

The terminology most commonly associated with self taught artists from the American South (with little to no formal education or connection to the “art world”) is “Folk Art” or “Outsider Art” – terms that require deeper investigation. Regardless of the questionable canonization of these artists, the art itself is sophisticated, multi-layered and multidimensional.

Somewhat of a controversial figure, it’s evident that Bill’s love for art from the deep south has shaped his life, as evident in the large warehouse of thoughtfully arranged art has been amassed for the art world to marvel.

Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson has had a love for visual art since she could remember. She attended galleries with her family and their friends as a young child, deeply interested in developing her palate for art.


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