Patric McCoy, AB’69, a retired environmental scientist, bought his first piece of art when he was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. In 1968 his roommate Scott Stapleton, BFA’68, came back from art class with a lithograph he called “The Seventh Angel of Revelation.”
McCoy was fascinated. “It had an ominous look to it,“ he said. “Back in the ’60s we were really thinking these were the last days.” They negotiated over a price and settled on $10 (about $72 today). “It tickles me now to think about it. That really was a lot of money.”
McCoy estimates he has about 1,300 works—mostly, but not exclusively, by contemporary artists from the African diaspora—in his three-bedroom North Kenwood apartment. Among them is work by Prof. Theaster Gates and the AfriCOBRA collective; he also still displays Stapleton’s lithograph. In 2003 McCoy cofounded Diasporal Rhythms, an organization that encourages art collecting.
McCoy recently talked to The Core magazine about his unique art works, his time at the University of Chicago and his philosophy on collecting.
In an article about your collection, the New York Times described you as a “fully committed zealot.” Is that accurate?
Yes, 100 percent. When I was in the EPA, I was in it to win it. When I was teaching, I was doing that. The concept of promoting art collecting is something I feel very, very strongly about.
We as a society are suffering because we keep perpetuating these myths about what a collector is—elitist, unusual, super wealthy, crazy in their concern about privacy and security, academic beyond belief, and possessed with an interest in investment. That’s not real. That’s not healthy.