Pa Valcarcel’s Whispers, 2023 © Adama Delphine Fawundu – courtesy of Hesse Flatow

Tiana Webb Evans has curated her personal collection so it tells a story about the artists in her community.  The founder of Jamaica Art Society, a network dedicated to the preservation of Jamaican visual arts history, Webb Evans shares in the latest PHOTOFAIRS In Focus interview what works she can’t wait to see at PHOTOFAIRS New York, opening soon at the Javits Center (September 8-10, with an invitation only VIP Preview on September 7, 2023).

PHOTOFAIRS NEW YORK: How did you start collecting?

TIANA WEBB EVANS: My husband’s mother was an artist and we inherited work very early on. From there, my own relationship with artists as an advisor and advocate led me to very organic acquisitions.  My collection tells a story about the artists in my community. Outside of personal relationships, working on and with art fairs has been the other way I have acquired work. Spending multiple 12-14 days looking at pieces you’re excited about inevitably results in a purchase.

PNY: What was the first artwork you experienced that made an impact?

TWE: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Any Number of Preoccupations in an exhibition of the same name at the Studio Museum in 2010. There was something “alive” about the piece. I loved its opacity, you can’t quite tell what the subject is doing or if it is a man or a woman. You wonder if the person is judging you or rejecting judgment. Are they relaxed or agitated? The stunning red robe could confer power or tragedy. There is so much to read into that you can’t stop staring at it. There is a showdown with the work – an active engagement with a seemingly straightforward rendering. Its masterful simplicity made me fall in love with Lynette’s work. Although it wasn’t the first work I fell in love with, that goes to Kandinsky, but it is definitely one of my top three!

PNY: Tell us about a favorite work in your collection.

TWE: You are asking me to select my favorite child, which I absolutely will not do. As mentioned, the work I own tells a story about my life and my community. That being said, I used to be shy by Nadine Faraj is meaningful because I was a painfully shy child and am still that way in many respects.

The Shield © Delphine Diallo – courtesy of Fisheye Gallery

PNY: How do you think the increasing interest in new technologies (such as NFTs and AI) will affect or has already affected, the process of collecting?

TWE: Strangely, I think AI in particular is helping us appreciate our humanity. Its presence in the market is forcing people to ask themselves whether or not they value our creativity and imperfect perfection. We’ve created our own competition and the question is if we’re smart enough to manage what we’ve created responsibly. My favorite thing about NFTs are the smart contracts. I think the technology can provide useful protection for creatives.

PNY: What artists or exhibitors are you looking forward to seeing at PHOTOFAIRS New York?

TWE: I would say Delphine Diallo, who I have known for over a decade and whose work has a central position in my home. Her collages are ripe with symbolism, beauty, and message. Adama Delphine Fawundu is another friend whose work I find thrilling. I recently saw her stunning mixed media exhibitions at Project for Empty Space and Newark Museum (running through early 2024). I’m also looking forward to seeing Rhiannon Adam’s work with Elijah Wheat Gallery.

Tiana Webb Evans is the Founder of ESP Group LLC, a brand strategy and communications consultancy supporting international clients across art, design, and hospitality industries. She is also the founder and creative director of Yard Concept, a cultural platform comprised of a digital journal, gallery, and ‘happenings’ dedicated to fostering consciousness through the engagement of art, design, and community; and most recently the founder of Jamaica Art Society an initiative designed to support Jamaican art professional and celebrate its visual arts legacy.

Tiana’s experience includes branding, communications, strategic planning, business development and cultural programming. Before launching ESP in 2014, Tiana served as the Communications Director at Phillips Auctioneers, a global corporation focused on the sale of Contemporary Art. As Vice President of the Hospitality and Real Estate Group at Nadine Johnson & Associates she was responsible for a portfolio of clients working at the intersection of art, culture, and business. Prior to establishing a career in communications, she was the Business Director of Studio Sofield, a celebrated architecture and design firm known for its work with the Gucci Group and a host of notable luxury goods brands.

In addition to her professional endeavors Tiana, writes about culture, advises and supports emerging artists, and shares her expertise by serving on the boards of Project for Empty Space, the Female Design Council, and Atlanta Art Week, and is on advisory committees for the Laundromat Project, PHOTOFAIRS New York, and Art at a Time Like This.