Swann in Profile: Corey Serrant

Corey Serrant is the newest member of our African-American fine art department – in fact, he started the week of our white-glove sale of the Johnson Publishing Company collection! We asked him a few questions about what brought him to the world of art and what moves him.

Corey Serrant
Corey Serrant, Administrator, African-American Fine Art

Welcome to Swann! What brought you into the world of art?

My first foray into art came by accident. I enrolled in a 400-level art history course at Penn State not realizing that I had skipped the surveys. The course was Pioneers of Modern Architecture led by the department head, Dr. Craig Zabel. He focused on the Prussian master architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and encapsulated Germanic art and architecture movements from the early nineteenth century to the Berlin Bauhaus. While the course was difficult, it opened my eyes to the beauty of art, architecture and design in practical and theoretical applications. From that course, my love of the visual arts was fueled. 

What has been a favorite piece you’ve had the opportunity to work with? Why?

I had the pleasure to handle a David Hammons’ African-American Flag. I assisted in installation and preparation of the flag for a viewing in which it found a home at a public institution. It was a privilege to work with that object, which is symbolically imbued with pride and nobility for African Americans.

Do you have a favorite book? Is there something that you continually refer back to? Is there anyone who influences you?

I could not do without Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. I continuously reread the text as inspiration and means to navigate my path through life and the art world. Though Fanon’s use of psychoanalytic thought is dated, his prose and understanding of the insidious problems of race and color are brilliant and still relevant. 

Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Green Drip Abstraction), gouache on wove paper, 1958.
Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Green Drip Abstraction), gouache on wove paper, 1958. Sold October 5, 2017 in African-American Fine Art for $12,500.

Janelle Monae is a musician whom I deeply admire. Her musical and visual aesthetic embodies the cultural movement of Afrofuturism. Her first two albums, Metropolis: The Chase Suite and The ArchAndroid are at the heart of intersections of African diaspora culture and technology. I love the literary and visual canon of Afrofuturism: seminal texts such as Octavia Butler’s Kindred and artists such as Wangechi Mutu, Aida Muluneh, and Tyler Mitchell allow for the inspiration and continuation of afrofuturist thought.

What drew you to the auction world?

I’m drawn to auctions because of the hands-on approach of handling the works and the ability to see what amazing objects consignors own in their collections. I love the world of material objects because they act as beacons of creativity and subjectivity.

Haywood "Bill" Rivers, Untitled, oil on canvas, circa 1968-69.
Haywood “Bill” Rivers, Untitled, oil on canvas, circa 1968-69. Sold October 5, 2017 in African-American Fine Art for $20,000.

You started at Swann the week of our sale of the Johnson Publishing Company Collection. What was that like as a first impression?

It was a huge pleasure to start my career with Swann during the Johnson Publishing Company sale. There was a positive vibration in the gallery and the department was abuzz. During the auction the energy in the saleroom was exhilarating. 

The photos we’re using in this post were your selections. Any final thoughts about African-American Fine Art?

The wellspring of creativity in which historic and contemporary African-American fine art stems is a place of deep thought, pain and joy. There is an introspective quality that examines the past, present and future of African Americans. 

Betye Saar, Adori, mixed media assemblage box, 1973
Betye Saar, Adori, mixed media assemblage box, 1973. Sold October 4, 2018 in African-American Fine Art for $42,500, a record for the artist at the time of sale.

More on our African-American Fine Art Department.