Collecting is woven into the DNA of sports fandom. Children might start out with baseball cards and toys before moving on to limited-edition sneakers and jerseys signed by the sports superstars they idolize. So for the lucky few athletes who eventually turn pro and sign lucrative contracts, collecting fine art may seem like a natural next step. “The art world has never really been explained to a lot of professional athletes,” curator and creative director Set Free Richardson, who founded The Compound in Red Hook and the Bronx, tells ARTnews. “They may have seen paintings or pictures their whole lives, but it was never taught that they could get involved with art from a financial standpoint.” Nor is the art world a particularly warm industry to those lacking expertise.
Think450, the for-profit wing of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the NBA players’ union, aims to circumvent this by teaching rookies financial literacy and the value of investing money into assets, like art, that appreciate in value. For example, the organization recently held a party for newly drafted NBA players in Las Vegas where Richardson and Boston Celtics superstar Jaylen Brown gifted three prints by Spanish artist Rafa Macarrón. “I like turning people on to a work that’s a ‘one of one’ for them—something that really speaks to them,” Richardson, who has helped advise Kevin Durant and Malcolm Brogdon to buy pieces by KAWS and Kehinde Wiley, told The Art Newspaper. “Lots of these guys are young, buying big houses for the first time, and they need to decorate.”