Art Collector Questionnaire

Collector Jahi Sundance Reveals What It’s Really Like Growing Up in an Artistic Household

Jahi Sundance pictured with (left) Sanford Biggers, Slipmats, 2009, and (right) Oliver Lake, Thunderbird Bracelet, 1979. All images courtesy of Sundance.

After being photographed by the likes of Ming Smith in his youth, it’s no wonder Jahi Sundance chose to surround himself with art as an adult. The LA-based DJ, producer, and songwriter has toured with Grammy-winning artists including Robert Glasper and Christian McBride, and appeared on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. In between tour stops and recording sessions, Sundance finds inspiration in a home filled with art. Many of the objects he collects are made by close friends and family. 

CULTURED spoke to Sundance at his LA home about how his collection has evolved, how it felt to bid at his first auction, and why all forms of art should be treated with equal respect.

What do you think makes the Los Angeles art scene distinct?

The amount of money in play. There are a lot of expensive homes and rich people with tons of space for collecting art and design. It really shifts the market in terms of what’s available and what you get to see. It's a huge marketplace with a lot of visual creators working in alternative settings. The art schools in SoCal also produce enough of an underground community to support some cutting-edge stuff.

Ming Smith, Marion, and Jahi family photographs.

Where does the story of your personal collection begin?

My collection begins with my parents and the artistic community that I grew up in. My story starts around birth when I was given a handmade set of prayer/voodoo dolls from [legendary trumpet player] Olu Dara Jones. I was born into a family that was deep in the artistic community. My parents, Oliver and Marion Lake, are in music and fashion, respectively. As a child, I was photographed by Anthony Barboza and Ming Smith, and I got to tag along with my folks to openings and performances. I was gifted art for birthdays and graduations, so I have been building up a collection for my entire life.

How would you characterize your collection?

My collection is built on family and friendships. It's a love collection. It tells the story of the life of my family and myself with art collected from those we are closest to.

Photography by Robert Whitman.

Which work or works provoke the most conversation from visitors?

The Robert Whitman photograph of Prince. It's from the earliest professional photo shoot that Prince ever did and most of my friends are huge, huge Prince fans. Also, the Amiri Baraka drawing, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, is something that people stare at and ask about. Then, when they find out who created it, they love it even more.

Christy Roberts Berkowitz, a portrait of my mother as a young universe, 2019. C-print
manipulated silhouette of the artist's mother as a young woman, composited with an official
NASA image of the universe from the Hubble Telescope.

Do you have any favorites in your collection?

Sanford Biggers’s DJ Slipmats were a gift from the artist and represent my life as an artistic DJ. They are an intersection of music and art that makes me happy. Oliver Lake’s Thunderbird Bracelet is an oil painting of my father’s that I got a tattoo of. When I look at the work, the colors make me feel like anything is possible. Christy Roberts Berkowitz’s my mother as a young universe is a print from a series by one of my best friends—this work is reflective of the women in my life and the endless supply of universes within them.

The Tupac and Biggie photograph—of them in an alley at a time when they were friends—was shot by a guy I used to work with at Ecko when I was 17, T. Eric Monroe. He has so many amazing, unseen hip-hop and skate photos; he's a real OG. Emilio Cruz’s Blue Man and Manuel Hughes’s Ribbonscape are also personal favorites.

How has the local art scene influenced your collection?

The “Made in L.A.” show [the Hammer Museum biennale] always turns me on to some cool work. Various zine fairs around the county also keep me happy with amazing design and artworks. During the pandemic, I was buying a lot of photographs from local artists that I found on IG.

T. Eric Monroe, Tupac & Biggie Rolling Blunts, 1993.

How do you discover new work?

I have some amazing friends who always keep me informed. I’m on some killer text threads. I live close to the LA museum district and will always attend friends' openings and performances.

Which artist are you currently most excited about and why?

Brandon D. Landers’s paintings are emotional and captivating. I also get super hyped when I see a work by Titus Kaphar. The bro Umar Rashid, also known as Frohawk Two Feathers, is also doing some truly dope things.

What factors do you consider when expanding your collection?

How much do I love it? And then I try to align myself to receive it.

Benny Andrews, Circle (Study), 1973-74.

What was the most challenging piece in your collection to acquire?

Benny Andrews’s Circle (Study). I saw this set of drawings and delved into my first auction experience. The whole auction thing was new for me and a bit of a challenge. But since I collect from mostly friends and family, it hasn't been hard to build a collection.

Is there one piece that got away, or that you still think about?

Meshell Ndegeocello once left some sketches in my house that got taped up to a wall and when they got taken down, they were ripped.

Artwork by an unknown Ghanaian artist.

What was your biggest influence in fostering your passion for art?

Having my parents set the example that all types of art and creation are one. All my life, I've been open to having emotional experiences with art in all forms. This keeps me passionate about it always.

What feelings would you like your collection to inspire in the people who experience it?

Love. Family. Community.

How has your collection changed as your home and space has changed?

I was living in apartments, but now I live in a home. I have more walls now, sooo... I'm having fun collecting more art!