Nike Opadiran’s impressive art collection boasts many of our favorite contemporary artists, including Nina Chanel Abney, Patrick Martinez, Wangari Mathenge, Rebecca Ness, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Tajh Rust, Gabriella Sanchez, all of whom have been featured on Art of Choice, among many other rising and recently established stars. A member of the Studio Museum’s Global Council, Opadiran began collecting through a desire to create affirming spaces around her. Focusing almost exclusively on emerging black artists that resonate with her as a young . black woman, Opadiran has come to acquire an impressive collection of works that would make any contemporary collector envious. Here, we speak with Opadiran about her journey as a collector.
Nike O. Opadiran
When did you first become interested in collecting art and where did you interest come from?
In the summer of 2017, I had the privilege of coming to know, and viewing the collection, of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a beloved arts patron who founded the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Her collection of contemporary black art resonated strongly with me as a young black woman. But even more so, her advocacy of young black artists inspired me and helped me understand that my purpose as a collector could be an extension of a broader commitment to countering the limited narratives of black people in today’s society.
Miseducation of Mimi #158, 2013-2017
What was the first piece of art you purchased?
Less than a month thereafter, I acquired a piece from Tajh Rust, a terrific young artist who, at the time, was about to start his MFA at Yale. I bucked what is probably sage advice by not waiting to refine my taste or at least starting with lower cost prints. But I have no regrets. Tajh remains one of my favorite emerging talents. And although his work has grown tremendously since that piece (which he completed several years before starting at Yale), his ability to narrate the intimacy and vulnerability of black life in ways that feel universal is still present in that early piece.
Hard Light, 2018
How do you go about choosing what to add to your collection?
Within that focus area, I simply strive to acquire really good pieces by artists whose work I absolutely love. Ideally, those pieces will stand, in retrospect, as early examples of the style for which an artist will later become known. But even if that’s not the case, I feel privileged to offer my patronage at a time when many artists are still figuring things out. And thankfully, many artists and dealers have rewarded my early support by later giving me access to some very important pieces.
Nina Chanel Abney
Who are some of your favorite artists working today?
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Henry Taylor are killing the game and adding needed voices to the conversation. In terms of artists in my collection, I hold Tajh Rust and Wangari Mathenge in special regard because my support for them predates their graduate studies. So we have, in some sense, grown up together in the art world. I also think Jonathan Lyndon Chase and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami are two of the most talented artists under 30. So I am glad to have their work in my collection.
I AM, 2018
How do you keep up to date with the latest art trends?
Like many young collectors, I consume a lot art through Instagram by following a mix of artists, collectors and curated accounts, such as Sugarcane Magazine. I also keep up with a handful of websites and podcasts, such as artnet News, Art of Choice and The Modern Art Notes, which provide a mix of art news, interviews and market insights. But most importantly, I have developed meaningful and personal relationships with a group of collectors, advisors and dealers whose opinions I respect. Collectively, they have been great in helping me navigate this space. And, in particular, I have found their willingness to introduce me to artists, dealers or institutions has been key to unlocking a level of access that I would not have otherwise had as a new collector.
Brush Your Blues, 2017
Why do you find art to be a worthwhile investment?
I definitely take pride in any decision I have made to invest early in an artist who has benefited from a steep career and price trajectory. But the value I attribute to my collection is far greater than that. I am now part of a vibrant community of creative people, and that is far more valuable than potential profits. Add to that the idea that my patronage can, in small ways, provide a counter-narrative to the ways in which people who look like me are seen, and that’s all the return on investment I need.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own art collection?
Accept that this is a difficult market to navigate as a new collector. Galleries and established artists want to place work with institutions and collectors that matter. Rather than begrudge that, learn to identify what you like that also resonates more broadly with others and focus on younger, more accessible artists whose work fits within those broader trends. In time, if you do that well, you will develop a collection that gives you wider access to artists, dealers and institutions. Also, the best advice I have received to-date was from a collector who encouraged me to donate work to a museum. Trust me. That’s a good look.
Still Shlumpy in the Kitchen, 2016
What is the next piece you would like to add to your collection?
I own a lithograph by Toyin Ojih Odutola. If the art gods bless me, I hope to add another piece by her to my collection. I am also a big fan of Arjan Martins, a Brazilian artist. So we will see if an opportunity presents itself there.