The front door of Arthur Lewis’s Los Angeles home opens to a room organized like an exhibition space. The marks of domesticity—dining room table, mantel, fireplace, throw pillows—are present, but engulfed by art. Paintings and sculptures grab all the attention, and maybe the intention, of the space.
Titus Kaphar’s Enough About You (2016) greets your first glance. Kaphar’s much-lauded work is based on an 18th-century painting, but in his version, the focus is placed on a young black boy, whose portrait is placed in an ornate gold frame. Meanwhile, the rest of the composition—featuring white men in powder wigs, including Elihu Yale—is crumpled up and trails off across the wall. Kaphar’s work speculates on the life, desires, and hopes of the lone black figure, who, in the original work, remains small in the background, serving Yale and colleagues while wearing a steel collar. The work is ambitious, demanding, and a reckoning on black possibilities. And it encapsulates the ethos of Lewis’s dynamic art collection.
Lewis, who recently became the creative director of UTA Fine Arts and UTA Artist Space, is a fixture of the Los Angeles art community. But before Los Angeles, and before 13 years of building his bold collection, his earliest engagements with art happened in his hometown of New Orleans. Lewis credits the city’s black cultural productions, museums, and vibrancy as an aesthetic and ethical foundation for what would become the tenets of his collection: brilliantly executed craftsmanship, narrative-driven practices, and the work of black practitioners.