Clearly collectors are a factor. Private, personal, institutional, and organizational ones. They often perform the function of "king" or "queen" maker by using their resources and connections to focus attention on the artists they tend to empower while marginalizing the ones they are indiferrent to. As customers of fine art collectors do a tremdous service. But real history is the factual story of what really happended. Not the story of what one wishes to promote or likes. That would be advertisement or branding. Which is cool....but not the whole story.
Art and "new" styles based out of Chicago are often overlooked in this shuffle. The '70s saw Jim Smoote, Dalton, Brown, Obie Creed, Kenneth Hunter Espi Frazier, and Turtel Onli form BAG. This union gave rise to the Afro-Deco style which Hunter innovated for clients like Essence Magazine and Muntu. Or the Rhtyhmistic movement which Brown and Onli often advocate. Smoote's masterful innovations in textiles and quilting are a must for many collectors yet undervalued for his creative design insights and technical power. Then there was the overwhelming power of the Chicago Mural Movment with Bill Walker, John Pitman-Weber, Calvin Jones, Eugene Eda, and Mitchell Caton.
Too often the conversation is subtractive in tone. As if these and a great many other things did not happen. Or the starting point is 1990 or 2000. It is sort of like how Black History was once taught that Negroes began in Americna slavery and omitted the obvious greatness of all that was African. A little more appreciation of the overall art history and production in Chicago during the '70s and '80s would reveal a great deal while raising questions about censorship, branding, and denial.
Even the mighty and inspirational muralist Bill Walker still lives among us......but rarely is referred to by many collectors, teachers, or artists. Funny that "Chicago" thing of not addressing its greats. Talk about a stale joke. www.cuip.net/~tonli/wit2002 was a site that explored some of this. It is a work in progress and welcomes positive suggestions. This former online Rhythmistic Museum asks the question for over ten years, in the construct of its "Omission Mission Decision" Just navigate the links. ME? I collect Black Age prints and posters. "The truth is out there.....if we just look!"