When they first connected, Fagaly asked about buying some work for his personal collection, but Butler brushed him off. When Fagaly asked why, Butler explained that he didn’t have a license to sell. Instead, Butler offered Fagaly a piece as a gift, and in step, Fagaly made a donation to Butler as a gift. “That’s how it was to be,” Fagaly wrote in his memoirs. “Whenever he gave me a piece, I would make a donation.”
In 1976, Fagaly aimed to show Butler’s work at NOMA, but trepidation hung over him because Butler’s introduction to the art world might irrevocably affect his life. Fagaly sought advice to no avail, and he decided to go ahead with the show, which would then travel to the Morgan City Auditorium near Patterson. “To me, this art was important,” Fagaly noted. He wanted the world beyond Patterson to see it—to know the quiet power of “Mr. David.”
After the show opened, collectors flocked to Patterson, as Fagaly had predicted. Some even took works from Butler’s yard without permission. Presumably, many leveraged the artist’s good nature to their own benefit. “The people up North,” as Butler called some of them, had returned time and time again, filling a truck of sculptures each time. Another woman was “commissioning” Butler to make works for her home, but simply sold them on the back end. Artists “collaborated” with him, and one artist even acquired Butler’s bike, despite Butler’s reluctance to sell it. Even Butler’s family took advantage of him. Fagaly’s fears were realized.