What I Buy and Why: Mashonda Tifrere on the Art That Reminds Her of Childhood, and Her Favorite ‘Push Present’

Tifrere hopes to add Sam Gilliam and Frank Bowling to her collection this year.

Mashonda Tifrere. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

Curator and art advisor Mashonda Tifrere has been collecting art since she was 18, when she signed her first music publishing deal in 1999. Highlights of her music career include being a featured performer on a Jay-Z single and a role as part of the original cast of VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York.

Since 2016, she’s been channelling her love of visual art into ArtLeadHer, an organization she founded to help promote women artists after an uninspiring New York gallery crawl seeing shows almost entirely by men.

Through ArtLeadHER, she also runs an art services organization called Art Genesis that aids artists in navigating the art market and building a sustainable career.

Last month, she curated an online sale featuring Lanecia Rouse Tinsley and Akilah Watts on virtual art marketplace LiveArt, and she currently has a dual exhibition celebrating the Black figure on view in person with NYC Culture Club at Westfield Place World Trace Center.

 Lanecia Rouse Tinsley, <em>It Keeps on Breaking</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Lanecia Rouse Tinsley, It Keeps on Breaking. Courtesy of the artist.

The first part, “Be of Good Courage,” showcases emerging artists Watts, Ronald Jackson, Lauren Pearce, Alanis Forde, Robert Peterson, Jaqueline Suowari, Jewel Ham, and Ikeorah Chisom Chi-Fada.

The second, “Small Wonders,” includes some more familiar names, such as Derrick Adams and Hugo McCloud. A portion of the sales proceeds benefit the Children’s Aid Foundation.

Tifrere spoke with us about what draws her to a work of art and why.

Mashonda Tifrere with, from Lauren Pearce's <em>Just One More Sleep, (2021) and <em>What We Will Remember</em> (2021) and Ronald Jackson's <em>The Magnificent Johnnie Mae King</em> (2021) in “Be of Good Courage” a NYC Culture Club exhibition at Westfield World Trade Center, New York. Photo by Parker Calvert. Courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere and NYC Culture Club.

Mashonda Tifrere with Lauren Pearce’s Just One More Sleep (2021) and What We Will Remember (2021) and Ronald Jackson’s The Magnificent Johnnie Mae King (2021). Photo by Parker Calvert. Courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere and NYC Culture Club.

What was your first purchase?

My first purchase was an Ansel Adams, hand-crafted gelatin silver photograph called Oak Tree, Snowstorm. I fell in love with it because it reminded me of my childhood and the snowstorms in my birth town, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What was your most recent purchase?

Last March, I purchased my first Monica Ikegwu. I love that she’s in her early 20s and already has such a unique and distinct style of painting. The work that I purchased, SHE’S AWARE, reminds me of my own adolescence, the hairstyle and fashion-waiting at a bus stop after school with my Walkman, being deeply present with the music but also hyper-aware of my surroundings in the busy and sometimes dangerous city.

Monica Ikegwu, <em>SHE'S AWARE</eM>. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

Monica Ikegwu, SHE’S AWARE. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

I’m searching for the perfect Sam Gilliam and Frank Bowling. I love lyrical abstract and these two men capture it the best in my opinion.

What is the most expensive art work you own?

I’d never say.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Directly from artists or curators. Both, equally. I love the feeling of wiring money to an artist for their work. It’s the most natural transaction.

Is there an artwork you regret purchasing?

Absolutely not. Every piece was well thought out and super intentional.

Mashonda Tifrere's living room features a piece by Swoon. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

Mashonda Tifrere’s living room features a piece by Swoon. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

A piece from Swoon that I received on my birthday. The artist hand-delivered it and watched me open it. It was magical!

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

My ex-husband [Swizz Beatz] gave me a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog as one of my push gifts after our son was born. I keep it in a glass case for safety. It’s so delicate and easy to scratch. So, impractical is the best description for it. One day, my son will give it to his children.

Jeff Koons, <em>Balloon Dog</eM>. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog. Photo courtesy of Mashonda Tifrere.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

I bought it!

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

I’m not stealing anything, but my goal is to own Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Head/Skull.

“Small Wonders” and “Be of Good Courage” are on view with New York Culture Club at Westfield World Trade Center, 183 Greenwich Street, New York, December 9, 2021–January 14, 2022.

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