Former NBA players talk African American art

Former NBA players, Elliot Perry and Darrell Walker discussed their collection of African American art at the National Gallery of Art Sunday. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

Max Smith,

WASHINGTON – A pair of former NBA players might not be the first people who come to mind when you think of art collectors, but Sunday they shared their knowledge of African American art at the National Gallery of Art.

“I know it’s a little different, because people always say ‘Hey you guys are two NBA players, you collect art?’ because there’s so much negativity sometimes about the NBA. But we love sharing, and this is the way we can share by being here at the National Gallery of Art,” Darrell Walker says.

Walker played for the New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets and Chicago Bulls over his ten year career. He also briefly coached the Washington Wizards in the 1999-2000 season.

“Art is a great thing. It’s lively, it’s great for the spirit,” Walker says.

Former NBA player Elliot Perry was also part of the Black History Month talk, along with Emory University Art History Professor Michael D. Harris.

Walker says he doesn’t collect for the investment value, but it does sometimes work out well.

When it does, “I just smile, then go ‘Wow, how lucky can I be?’ But I’ve done a lot of reading, studio visits, museums … emailing other collectors. I pretty much have my pulse on what’s good and what’s not good,” he says.

But he hasn’t always been in-the-know.

“Bernard King, one of my ex-teammates in the early ’80s, would always try to get me to go with him to galleries, go with him to museums, and when you’re 21, 22 that’s the last thing on your mind,” Walker says.

He still understands that not everyone is going to love art the way he does.

“Art is not for everybody. Some people like jazz, some people like hand-blown glass, some people like a lot of different things, and I just happen to like art,” Walker says.

“If you get the art bug you’ll know it. It’ll hit you. It’ll hit you in your eyes. It’ll hit you in your heart. And you will feel it,” he says.

If you’re on the fence, Walker suggests checking out the National Gallery.

“This is an unbelievable place and people should take more advantage of it because it’s great,” he says.

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