Although it’s still in its infancy, the Harlem Fine Arts Show has grown in attendance year after year by drawing artists, galleries and collectors from across the country. The show is quickly becoming a staple in New York’s Harlem community as it has provided tremendous impact to nonprofit organizations such as the Harlem School of the Arts and the Mama Foundation and has drawn local and regional political leaders.
In 2009, when the first HFAS opened at the Harlem Armory at 143rd Street, it attracted just under 3,000 art lovers. Today the show attracts nearly 10,000 visitors annually and is the premier establishment for fine art of the African Diaspora. Just under 100 artists and galleries will display at this year’s show, making it the largest display thus far.
“I love this show,” says Tracey, a third-year attendee of the show. “Harlem’s got it goin’ on. It’s like a second Harlem Renaissance. The show has gotten better each year, and now you’ve got all these great restaurants and clubs.”
Like Tracey, many other artgoers and event attendees have seen the show grow year after year and, more important, have seen a growing interest in art. It’s not uncommon to now see pieces of African-American art selling for six figures and rising in value over time. The burgeoning popularity of national art fairs and expositions in U.S. cities has had a direct impact on the popularity of fine art reflecting the Diaspora. Artwork collected at the show ranges in value from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
As the Super Bowl comes to New York this year, HFAS also ties in a partnership with the NFL Players Association through its “Smocks and Jocks” art program. The NFL Players Association will have a major presence at the event by exhibiting artwork created by current and former NFL players that will be for sale and auction, with proceeds donated to charitable causes.
George Nock, a former NFL player, has showcased his art at the HFAS shows in New York and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for several years. In partnership with the NFL Players Association, other NFL artists will be featured, including sculptor and former Buffalo Bills fullback Phillip Crosby.
Long-standing artists who have been with the HFAS include Michael Escoffery, Leroy Campbell, Ernani Silva and Frank Frazier. Among the show’s newcomers and midcareer artists this year are Verna Hart, Eric Girault, Burnett Curtis Grayson III and Smile Design Gallery. Hart, a young expressionist painter, is best-known for painting the rhythms of American life. Impressionist painter Girault reflects the passions of his native Haiti. Grayson’s work was most recently featured in the 2013 film Best Man Holiday.
Dr. Lee Alexandre Gause, founder of Smile Design Manhattan, will also have a gallery on display: an innovative gallery that offers free dental care for patients who could not normally afford his services by selling artwork for charity. Works in his gallery include emerging and midcareer artists like photographer Chi Modu, painter Takashi Murakami and painter Angelo Romano.
The Harlem Fine Arts Show returns to New York City this year at Riverside Church from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.