Mackey Twins Art Gallery seeks to expand presence of Black artists, collectors

JORDANNAH ELIZABETH | 12/13/2018, 3:48 p.m.
The identical twin sisters started out as collectors themselves, finding a way to purchase art by people of color on ...
Sharon and Karen Mackey, owners of the Mackey Twins Art Gallery

Sharon and Karen Mackey, the owners of the Mackey Twins Art Gallery in Mount Vernon, N.Y., understand that the purchasing of Black art by Black buyers—owning pieces of our own history—is an important cultural goal, and they are focused on driving the number of Black art collectors up.

The identical twin sisters started out as collectors themselves, finding a way to purchase art by people of color on meager teacher salaries. As their collection grew, they decided to get organized and present Black fine art to their community, both i to motivate and expand the awareness of the large numbers and talent of Black artists, and to maintain a space where they can encourage others to invest in their own people’s work, culture and influence in the fine art world.

The sisters spoke about their vision and the success of their gallery, which usually displays at least 50 pieces of art on their walls at any given time.

AmNews: What inspired you both to collaborate on opening this gallery space together?

Sharon Mackey: We’re identical twins and we feel very similarly about our goals. Getting into the art industry was very much the same as how we are with everything. We are the perfect partnership. We know each other so well.

AmNews: What was the process of deciding where you wanted to be located, finding the space and choosing the theme of the gallery?

Karen Mackey: When we first started out, we were English teachers and we visited all the time. We had a commitment to the arts and want to buy [works of art], and years ago a teacher’s salary was pretty paltry. So, we certainly didn’t have the money to buy. But we still realized that in literature, the arts and culture, Blacks and people of color as a whole were not represented. We said, “We’ve got to do something about this, but how can we do something when we don’t have the money to start collecting art?”

And after a few years of visiting galleries and going to a lot of art shows, feeling it, wanting to purchase and wanting to be in it, we met a Black man who owned his own gallery, who would talk to us a lot, and he [finally] said, “Why don’t you go on a payment plan?” We started collecting that way. We went on a payment plan, and once we finished one, we’d buy another piece of art. He had such great art we ended up being on five and six payment plans at one time [laughs]. That resulted in us starting to [put on] art shows and they did well. As we continued we said, “We have to make this real.” We incorporated, got the name together, Mackey Twins Art Gallery Inc., and started to knuckle down and really do a solid job at representing artists and presenting fine art in a solid environment.

AmNews: Within the realm of Black art, there are diverse mediums. Did you decide you were only going to present contemporary artists, or activist-based works or illustrators, etc.? Or were you open to showing a lot of different kinds of art?