Business executive and art enthusiast George Wells has pledged the art collection — which features eight pieces that focus on identity politics and racial inequality — to Morehouse College, the school confirmed to CNN on Friday.

The collection includes works by a diverse range of artists, including McArthur Binion, Rashid Johnson, Amy Sherald, Mickalene Thomas and Ivy Haldeman.

“I will always be grateful for my Morehouse education and the springboard it created for my career on Wall Street and in business, and I want to recognize that with this gift,” Wells, 42, said in a statement.

“Owning multiple works by Johnson and Thomas is like owning a piece of history to me. Their practices both showcase black resiliency and triumph but in different ways and from different gender perspectives. It is my hope that this gift will serve as an impetus for furthering racial equality within the art world during this exceptionally vulnerable time for Americans and race relations.” Wells is the founder of Wells Groups of New York, a management consulting firm that works with start-ups and mid-sized companies in tech, consumer goods and services, and health care, among other industries.

George Wells.
George Wells.

The artworks, which will be displayed around the school in 2021, were part of Wells’ and his husband’s personal art collection, which has grown to more than 50 pieces by both emerging and established artists.

“I would like to thank George Wells and Manfred Rantner for their generosity,” said Monique Dozier, vice president of institutional advancement at Morehouse, in a statement.

“This wonderful contribution from a Morehouse College alumnus celebrates the culture, creativity, intellect, and history of Black people. It also reinforces the importance of investing in the talents of diverse artists. The George Wells Collection will spur academic conversations in our classrooms and be a source of pride for the College, our scholars, alumni, and the Southwest Atlanta community.”

Art that goes beyond politics

While most of the artworks — which include figurative and abstract art — were created by Black and LGBTQ artists, not every piece in Wells’ donated collection tells a story of injustice.

Some works, including Ivy Haldeman’s piece included in the donated collection, simply embody blissful joy, devoid of any trace of race or gender. This, according to Uzee Brown, the chairman of Morehouse College’s Creative and Performing Arts department, is why the collection means so much to the college.

“This gift speaks volumes because what it brings to our community. It brings attention to works that have been underrepresented, as it is with many aspects of African American culture,” Brown told CNN. “Not all art by Black artists is political. It’s art made by someone who’s Black, but the subject matter is broad. It’s about love, happiness, the beauty of nature. We need to let that allow that part of the art to breathe.”

“There is nothing wrong with reflecting the voice that come out of a community, it’s important because our art is an expression of life, but we do not need to be as a people of color marginalized to the point where it’s always the assumption, that our struggles will be the basis of our subject matter,” he added.

Along with sharing stories through art, Wells hopes his donation will educate the Black community from both a creative and business standpoint to add diversity to the art industry.

“Morehouse doesn’t yet have a permanent art collection, so I thought if I could gift this art collection to them, the halo effect and the impact it would have on cultural discourse would be paramount,” Wells told CNN.

“In the art world, there are so few Black people in positions of power, so if we start at the core, which is education, and educate more people about the contemporary art world, we could make that world more inclusive.”

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