Why African-American Art Is So Hot

Hanging in Robert Johnson’s den is an oil from the 1930s by an African-American artist named Palmer Hayden. The painting depicts a black American businessman getting his shoes shined.

The subject is nattily dressed in suit and spats, a little like Johnson himself, who is sporting a crisply pressed blue shirt and a shiny yellow tie.

“That painting represents pride and dignity,” says Johnson. “I identify personally with this work.”

Johnson may be known for the low-budget comedy routines and booty-shaking music videos that drove the success of BET, the cable channel he founded that turned him into America’s first black billionaire in 2001.

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