Janine and Lyndon Barrois on Building a Collection That Radiates Black Excellence
Portrait of Lyndon Barrois, Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois with, from left to right and top to bottom, Lyndon Barrois, Jr, Untitled (portrait), n.d.; Michelle Robinson, Untitled, 2014; Pearl C. Hsuing, Revenge, Big Revenge, 2007; Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, The Artist II, n.d.; and a 2019 artwork by Kwesi Botchway. Photo by Gloria Mesa. Courtesy of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr.
Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois Sr. are the kinds of neighbors and friends any art lover would want to have. Last November, the Los Angeles–based couple welcomed guests to their home to celebrate the opening of two LACMA exhibitions: “Black American Portraits” and the L.A. stop of the Obama portraits tour. Donors, notable collectors, curators, museum directors, and the exhibition’s esteemed artists—many of whom are featured in the couple’s collection—were among the invited guests.
Throughout the couple’s beautiful multistory home, guests could admire works by artists including Reginald Sylvester II, Calida Rawles, Samella Lewis, Fred Eversely, Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu, Alicia Piller, Monica Ikegwu, and Theaster Gates. While the collection is mostly figurative, there are also quite a few significant abstract pieces. “These [works] may not [all] be representational, but they do tell a story of representation whether it’s an interpretation of the Black experience, or the fact that these are Black artists doing this work,” explained Lyndon.
Installation view, from left to right, of Felandus Thames, Black and Blue, 2016; Murjoni Merriweather, Sosa, 2020; and Reginald Sylvester II, These Songs of Freedom II, 2020. Photo Gloria Mesa. Courtesy of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr.
A board member of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Lyndon played an integral role in organizing the Obama portrait exhibition. He, Janine, and their network of friends helped make the tour possible in Los Angeles through their fundraising efforts. “We know how important it is to not only go see art, but also to patronize it and to help support it, because that’s how it gets done,” said Janine.
For the Barroises, their respective careers in art and entertainment have kept them inspired and connected to each other and to the creative community at large—Janine is a TV writer and producer, and Lyndon is an artist and animation director. Janine’s latest show, The Kings of Napa, which premiered on OWN last month, echoes the celebration of Black excellence resonant in the couple’s own art collection. In fact, art and collecting play a crucial role in the TV series.“I was creating a show about an epic African American family that owns a vineyard in Napa,” Janine explained. “I felt, if you own a vineyard, and you produce wine, and you’re very, very successful at it, that your love of food and wine and lifestyle would also permeate your love of art.”
Because of the deep relationships that Lyndon and Janine have fostered with artists, curators, and gallerists over the years, Janine was able to fill the show with great artworks. Among the artists featured are Shinique Smith, Ronald Jackson, Rob Pruitt, and Khari Turner, as well as up-and-comers like Ashley January and Lex Marie.
Monica Ikegwu, installation view, from left to right, of Joey, 2017, and Pretty in Pink from the “Jacket” series, 2018. Photo by Gloria Mesa. Courtesy of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr.
While The Kings of Napa is fictional, Janine proudly shared that “when you’re immersed in it, I think it starts to feel like this is normal. This is Black excellence and it’s Black joy.” Lyndon added, “It’s important to show people that this is not fantasy, that some people do live this way.”
Though the couple has been collecting for years, they explain that it hasn’t always been easy or welcoming. “The art world does have a stratification—there is a hierarchy, there is a lot of judgment,” said Janine. “When you’re Black, unless galleries know you, it’s sometimes very hard to maneuver because there’s an assumption that you don’t have a collection, or you’re not going to spend the money.”
One of the artists in the Barrois collection, Genevieve Gaignard, amplified this point when she debuted work and clothing with the text “sell to Black collectors” at Frieze Los Angeles in 2020. “Genevieve is bold. I think artists need to do what Genevieve has done,” said Janine. “We know a lot of big artists that have told their gallerists that it is really important that some of their work gets into the hands of Black collectors.”
Installation view, from left to right, of Ronald Jackson, The Night is Beautiful, 2019; and Umar Rashid (Frohawk Two Feathers), Per Capita, 2021. Photo by Gloria Mesa. Courtesy of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr.
Reflecting on the start of their collecting journey, Janine explained the catalyzing effect of seeing Black figuration. “I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area going to all of the museums, and you see all these white figures put in your face and lionized,” she said. “There is this feeling when you see Black figures to want to embrace them and to have them in your collection.” Works by artists like Umar Rashid (Frohawk Two Feathers) and Ronald Jackson, which are situated adjacent to one another in one of the couple’s stairwells, beautifully capture the embrace of Black identity and history.
Though Lyndon and Janine collect as a couple, neither is forced to compromise their collecting vision, even if they might disagree on an acquisition. “We don’t let [ourselves] talk each other out of getting stuff that we love,” said Lyndon. “When she finds something that she’s really passionate about, whether I feel it or not, Janine loves it, so Janine is gonna get it. I’ve done that myself for some pieces.”
Portrait of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr. with Camilo Restrepo, A Land Reform 7, 2014. Photo by Gloria Mesa. Courtesy of Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon Barrois, Sr.
And despite their occasionally disparate viewpoints, the couple always seems to find common ground at the end of the day. As Lyndon explained, “When it’s in the hall, you eventually say, ‘You know, I was wrong. That is an incredible piece of work.’”
For the Barroises, collecting art is a long-term commitment not wholly unlike marriage—driven by love, passion, and dedication. “The value is what you feel about the piece and how much you love it,” said Lyndon. “I always tell people to buy what you love, because if you buy something based on a projected value you hope it’s going to achieve and it doesn’t, you’re going to hate it.”
Janine echoed that sentiment, adding, “We just want to live in the joy of it.”