Black art is fine art, and this organization is on a mission to ensure that everyone understands just that.
In 2020 when the world was forced to stand still due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GANGGANG Co-Founder and Executive Director Malina Simone Bacon took into account how artists responded.
From there, she and her co-founder and husband, Alan Bacon, were ignited by the idea to create a space for Black art to live and thrive. Enter GANGGANG, a cultural development and social justice organization.
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Celebrating Black Art… The Right Way
“Throughout humanity, the artists are the ones who respond to or kind of narrate what’s going on in the world,” Malina told AFROTECH. “And there were institutions and museums and exhibition spaces that started to notice and then started to exhibit the work of Black artists, and while it was, of course, overdue, and, of course, the right thing to do, it was not doing the work justice.”
Together, Malina and Alan made a vow to never let this happen again, using GANGGANG to create an extension of their support and love for Black art.
What Is BUTTER?
In August 2023, the pair celebrated the third year of BUTTER, a multi-day fine art fair organized by GANGGANG featuring artwork “made by Black visual artists from Indiana and across the country,” per the company’s website.
Malina, who has always been an advocate for artists, quickly noticed the uncomfortable line between appreciation and appropriation, and thus with BUTTER as the catalyst, the team began the work of taking the narrative of Black art and putting it back into the hands of those who make it.
“This is the no commission fair,” she explained. “We are testing a new model in the art industry. It is not normal at all to give 100 percent of the sales proceeds to the artists. In the art industry, like in the visual art industry, when an artist does a piece, they usually have to give 20, 30, 40, or even 50 percent to the person who sold it for them.”
She continued: “So you’re talking about reparations here. We’re talking about economic justice here. There’s not a fair doing that.”
Meet The Artists
What’s more, artist Terrible Tony whose work was displayed during this year’s BUTTER showcase, says events like this help to protect the value of Black art.
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“Stuff like this comes to mind when I think about the value of Black art,” he said. “Because, I think, a lot of times we might not always know our value and we get taken advantage of a lot, you know what I mean? We shape a lot of the culture, and a lot of times we don’t get paid properly until it’s too late. So I think stuff like BUTTER and just doing it ourselves is the way to go. Just curating and doing things the way we want to do it without having to apologize. This is the way to do it.”
Similarly, another artist with work displayed during the 2023 BUTTER event echoed Terrible Tony’s sentiments on the true value of Black art, which, she says, usually doesn’t come full force until an artist is long gone.
“It’s our job, our duty to get us out there, to promote how we need to be viewed and how we need to be looked at, and then give that to our children to say, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do,’” Desi Brown explained when discussing how art can be used to create generational wealth within the community. “This is how we go forward. This is how we’ll make it happen.”
A Safe Space For Art Enthusiasts Too
For art enthusiast and prominent businessman Dame Dash, the most valuable art isn’t something that one solely uses their money to purchase.
“The most valuable art, you don’t purchase… it’s given to you,” he told AFROTECH. “There are some things that Aaliyah gave me that are very valuable to me. It’s almost like the art that you aggregate. Because, my art goes to my family, off top. Also, it’s art that I’ve shown in my galleries that have blown up and I was able to identify it first.”
At the end of the day, the primary goal with BUTTER, which wrapped up a successful third year in Indianapolis in August 2023, is to equip artists with everything that they need to support themselves and thrive.
“BUTTER gets resources, financial resources, social resources, in the hands of artists so they can sustain and that is a model that should be replicated all over,” curator Greg Rose said during the event. “BUTTER is a way to sustain these artists in the dry season of the winter where there are not as many activities. There are not as many financial or social engagement opportunities that can lead to financial opportunities. So, it’s a way for us to get this final surge of financial resources into the pockets of artists that sustain them over the winter.”
In the years to come, the GANGGANG team anticipates long-term efforts to build brighter futures for Black artists whose work continues to make the world go round.