I was going to post this as a comment, but it was getting too long, so here it is.
Karoda - I think that very often art is judged by who the artist is. I know that I have read articles (Robert Genn, I think) where a piece of art by a well known and respected artist was presented to a group (without their knowing who the artist was) and their comments were less than enthusiastic. And somewhere on YouTube is a video of a world famous concert violinist playing in the DC Metro and pretty much totally ignored. But in these cases the artists had made their own way up in the art world and their notoriety was the result of that.
In the case of the Gee's Bend quilts, their notoriety was given a huge shove by William Arnett, et al. That's not to say that some of those artists don't deserve this because without it they would be doing their art in obscurity and unappreciated. In any group there is going to be a range of talent, and some of the Gee's Bend quilters are more talented than others, yet they are all considered pretty much equal. But my point about white, middle-aged, suburban women is this: if W Arnett had been presented with the same quilts but they had been made by the these women, he would not have seen any potential in promoting them. There is a tremendous back story about the Gee's Bend Quilters, and I think that contributes greatly to their interest and value.
I would like to read that article that you mentioned.
There is a catalog for this show. The catalog includes many more quilts than what was on display, plus lots of text.