Art Market

ARTNOIR’s Benefit Auction, Featuring Works by Rising Artists of Color, Does More than Raise Funds

Ayanna Dozier
Nov 1, 2022 9:18PM

For the past nine years, ARTNOIR has been building a community of BIPOC artists, creators, and collectors in the art world. Led mostly by women, the organization facilitates opportunities for people to connect with the work of artists of color through a variety of exhibitions, auctions, and social events. ARTNOIR co-founder Larry Ossei-Mensah described ARTNOIR’s mission as one that both supports BIPOC creators while evangelizing their work to the world.

Just ahead of its 10-year anniversary, ARTNOIR is partnering with Artsy for a benefit auction for the third year in a row. Running from November 1st through 15th, the auction will support ARTNOIR’s grant program. This includes the Artistic Pathways Scholarship Fund, an initiative that supports BIPOC artists in MFA programs at New York’s city and state universities. Artsy spoke with ARTNOIR co-founders Ossei-Mensah and Carolyn “CC” Concepcion to learn more about the auction and their service-driven mission.


ARTNOIR’s first benefit auction with Artsy was in 2020, following the widespread cultural response to the police killing of George Floyd. Since then, the organization’s social outreach has grown immensely, extending from its social media feeds to in-person talks, exhibitions, gallery walkthroughs, internship programs, residency opportunities, and more.

Concepcion nodded to ARTNOIR’s internship program as a prime example of the organization’s focus. Rather than perpetuate the system of “oppression apprenticeship” that is typical of art world internships, ARTNOIR cultivates opportunities for emerging BIPOC creators to learn and grow in their career. “I say to my interns, ‘Your goal is not what you can produce but what you can learn from me,’” Concepcion said. The internship functions more like a mentorship in the arts where aspiring creatives can learn various skills needed to thrive in the art world across curation, gallery management, and marketing. For example, one of its former interns is Cierra Britton, who now runs Cierra Britton Gallery.

Online events, like the current auction, are also key to ARTNOIR’s mission. “[This auction] allows us to tap into Artsy’s amazing technology, resources, and network to create these experiences of discovery,” Ossei-Mensah said, adding that the online platform has had a notable impact on the careers of the artists it works with.

“When we look at artists who have participated in the previous auctions, like Chase Hall, Ludovic Nkoth, and Gisela McDaniel, they [are now] moving towards becoming household names,” Ossei-Mensah said. “We believe [this auction] is a great catalyst for artists’ careers.”

Once again, this year’s auction features several standout works by rising artists. Of This Place (2022) by Mario Joyce is a rapturous, colorful portrait of a young man standing in what appears to be a rich field of flowers and plants. The thick staccato brushstrokes push the figurative painting towards abstraction, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in swirls of color. Joyce is a self-taught painter who works with portraiture to examine themes of ancestral memory, belonging, and queer identity. The artist is currently participating in the 2022 artist residency Pratt>FORWARD, which is co-directed by Mickalene Thomas.

Similarly, Lauryn Levette’s painting Rhinestone Cowboy (2022) reimagines the iconic motorcycle slide scene from the anime film Akira (1988) featuring a Black femme. Like many of the artists featured in the auction, Levette has found support through ARTNOIR since the beginning of her career. Ossei-Mensah met the artist while she was pursuing her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. “This is essential,” Ossei-Mensah said, remarking on the organization’s commitment to “go on the journey with the artist.”

ARTNOIR’s emphasis on building community over a transactional-only relationship is evident in how Ossei-Mensah talks about the artists and their personal histories with the organization. Take, for example, the esteemed collage artist and printmaker Rico Gatson, whom Ossei-Mensah and Concepcion refer to as an “OG” supporter of ARTNOIR.

Ossei-Mensah and Concepcion elicit a palpable enthusiasm over the work they do, as well as the growth of the careers of the artists they work with. This forthcoming auction is a fundraising effort, though it’s just as much another opportunity to celebrate artists.

“The genesis for ARTNOIR and the reason why we still feel the love [from the community] 10 years on is that we’re a service-based organization,” Concepcion said. “Our goal is focused on creating a safe space for BIPOC artists and cultural workers…it’s all a labor of love.”

Ayanna Dozier
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.