Rasheed Newson, author, executive producer, and co-creator of the hit Peacock show Bel-Air is intentional in the way he presents his art. On Bel-Air, there seems to be an endless display of Black art throughout the Banks’ home and through Vivian Banks’ work as an artist. Newson wanted to ensure his vision of Black culture could still be reflected even in a wealthy family.
It should come as no surprise that Newson practices what he preaches. Outside of his work, his home life is filled with beautiful artwork that he and his husband have curated throughout the years. His collection of work reaffirms Black culture, identity, and history in his home. Home & Texture talked to Newson about his art collection and how he intends to push more queer artists to the forefront.
Discovering Emerging Artists
Home & Texture: How did you get into collecting fine art? Was it something that you know your family practiced as a tradition? Or was it something that you decided that you wanted to do to start your own tradition?
Introducing Art to Young Children
H&T: Can you walk us through why you chose to frame the art the way you did? Is there any inspiration behind that?
RN: We found a framer we liked and that became a relationship. This art has moved with us and if you pick a uniform frame, [whether] it’s black or white, [it will match the] walls in the new house. We also hung it this way because we have small children. We want the art to be on eye level with them. So there’s the art that’s on our (adult) eye level, so it’s high up, but [we] ended up doing a gallery wall so that they can also interact with the art.
H&T: Do you have an art buyer that you work with? Or are you just a regular in the art scene figuring out what you like or what you don’t like?
RN: I’ve developed relationships with the Charlie James Gallery. There’s also the Claire Oliver Gallery in Harlem. [That’s] where we ended up with work by Gio Swaby that’s now on loan. Sometimes I look for things at auctions or sales. But yeah, I’m pretty hands-on—there’s no buyer.
Rasheed Newson Talks About Intent and Putting Black Culture Front and Center Through a Fine Art Lens on Bel-Air
H&T: Who does the artwork for Vivian Banks’ character on Bel-Air, and how did you go about picking the art for the show?
RN: Jason Wilcox. [Regarding] Bel-Air, the key to that was [having] the art department (which was great) going out and finding people that could make digital copies of [artists’] work so we can put them in the show. It’s a triumph of sort of knowing the bureaucracy of television. A lot of people want to put art by contemporary artists on in their shows. They wait too late in the process. We were picking the artists as they were designing the dark diameters of the set for the Banks’ house. If you wait until the paint is dry, you’re going to end up with stock art. You have to do it at the very beginning. You have to be intentional. We gave a budget and we explained to the executives what the value was. We tied it to the story and were just like, ‘Oh, this looks nice.’ One of the things we want to be clear about is that the Banks family is rich. But that doesn’t mean they’re disconnected from their heritage and their culture.
Newson Describes His Art Style
H&T: Describe your art style in three words.
RN: Vivid, political, and evocative.
Newson on Using His Platform To Bring Black and POC LGBTQ+ Artists to The Forefront
H&T: Why do you want to use your platform to be very forward with representing not just Black and POC artists but Black and POC queer artists?
RN: I think those artists deserve a seat at the table. Because [they] haven’t really gotten a chance to speak as openly as they should. In a television show, if you’re really good, you’ll find that every department is telling a story. You’re telling a story through the water, through the hair, the makeup, and the art on the walls, and I want that story to be as inclusive and as expansive as possible. You don’t know where the viewer’s eye is going to land. I have 16-year-old boys who have favorite cars, rappers, and shoes, but I have not seen one have a favorite painting. And that right there is what I was hoping to have to happen. I’d like people to think about art as something that’s in their life and something they have a relationship with.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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