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The High Museum of Art continues its collecting ways, announcing the gift of 47 works by Southern self-taught artists including Minnie Evans, Howard Finster, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett and Nellie Mae Rowe. The paintings, sculptures and drawings will be followed by 26 works to be bequeathed to the High.

All are the gift of longtime collectors Harvie and Chuck Abney.

High Abney gift april 2021

J.B. Murray, “Untitled (Nine patch)” from about 1984; marker, acrylic, watercolor and crayon on paper.

“Here in Atlanta, in the late 1970s, we were exposed to the works of African American self-taught artists at the Judith Alexander Gallery,” Chuck Abney said in a statement. “As early collectors, we had access to the best of this art. Our first purchase in 1980 was a Nellie Mae Rowe drawing from the Alexander Gallery, and our last was a Ronald Lockett collage in 2019 from Christie’s Auction House in NYC. A lot of fun happened in between!”

The Abneys, the High said in the statement, were ahead of the curve in their interest in self-taught artists.

“Chuck has a studied eye when it comes to Rowe’s work and has been able to represent some of her most important themes and symbols in his collection,”  the High’s folk and self-taught art curator Katherine Jentleson said in the statement.

Rowe (1900–1982) is the first artist the Abneys collected; the High, a leading collector of her work, will receive 17 pieces from the Abneys, bringing its trove of Rowe’s work to more than 200 pieces. Look for many in the upcoming exhibition Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe (September 3–January 9). It will be the first presentation of her work in more than 20 years.

The Abneys collected significant groups of work by women self-taught artists who are often underrepresented. Their gift includes eight works by North Carolina artist Evans (1892–1987), Tennessee’s Bessie Harvey (1929–1984) and New Orleans’ Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900–1980). Also in the gift are drawings by Archie Byron, John R. Mason, J.B. Murray (1908–1988), Juanita Rogers (1934–1985) and Henry Speller (1900–1987).

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