Crack open The New Yorker this week and you’ll find an article about Alabama–based outsider artist Thornton Dial and Bill Arnett, the collector, curator and dealer who has long promoted Mr. Dial and other self-taught artists from the South.
Written by Paige Williams, the article tells the story of their three-decade partnership, and includes guest appearances by everyone from the Dallas Museum of Art’s director, Maxwell Anderson, to representatives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art department.
Here’s a bit about what drives Mr. Arnett, whose close involvement—and private financial arrangements—with the artists that he promotes have been the subject of much debate over the years:
Arnett is diabetic, and he had been talking for so long that Browning stepped out of the warehouse’s front office to offer him a fruit bar. “This art wasn’t created to entertain people or to sell to rich people,” Arnett went on. “It was created to commemorate the culture itself, so that it could last, so that grand- mama could tell grandson, ‘This is what we’re about, child.’ ” He looked pained. “Art in America has been removed from all that. It isn’t relevant to anybody walk- ing down the street. It’s relevant to a handful of wealthy people who don’t even collect it—they accumulate it.” He added, “I’m trying to create some documents to leave behind, so that when the system changes, just a little bit, somebody will say, ‘Wow, you mean we had this going on in America in the twentieth century?’ That’s all.”
The article feels like a fairly even-handed account of a pretty complicated subject. Give it a read.