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Celebrated poet, writer, actress, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s private collection of African-American art, most of which has never been shown publicly, is heading to auction at Swann Auction Galleries on September 15.

The collection of nearly 50 artworks, including pieces by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Melvin Edwards, and Jonathan Green, was directly consigned by Angelou’s estate to auction house’s African-American Fine Art Department. Angelou’s family are “happy to have the art that she loved, bring joy and inspiration to the lives of others,” according to a statement by the author’s son Guy Johnson.

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On Easter 1939, Marian Anderson stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and sang: “The gospel train is coming; I hear it just at hand; I hear the car wheels rumbling, and rolling through the land. Get on board.” By then, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans had already heard the call, leaving the rural South for the industrial North in search of jobs, homes and respect.

The same year she sang, the young artist Jacob Lawrence, son of relocated Southerners, began research for a sequence of paintings that would record the wave of boardings, rumblings and arrivals. Those paintings and journey itself are the subjects of “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North” at the Museum of Modern Art, a show as stimulating to the mind and the ear as it is to the eye.

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014 11:37

The Met Receives Major Gift of African-American Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Monday that it had received a major gift of 20th-century works by African-American artists from the South, including 10 pieces by Thornton Dial and 20 important quilts made by the Gee’s Bend quilters of Alabama.

The works, 57 in all, are being donated by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which was begun in 2010 by the scholar and collector William S. Arnett to raise the profile of art by self-taught African-Americans. Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director, described the gift, which also includes work by Lonnie Holley, Nellie Mae Rowe and Joe Minter, as a significant enlargement of the museum’s holdings of work by black American artists.

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Before it was located on the National Mall and was still an independent museum on Capitol Hill, the Museum of African Art included both African and African-American art in its collection. That changed in 1979, when it became the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, focused on Africa, not the American diaspora. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the museum, and to celebrate it the museum has returned to its roots, supplementing its own collection with works by African-American artists in the collection of Camille and William Cosby, Jr.

Yes, that Bill Cosby.

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After amassing a private collection of African-American Art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art.

The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, includes works by such leading African-American artists as Beauford Delaney, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage and Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Cosby collection of more than 300 African-American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings has never been loaned or seen publicly, except for one work of art.

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Sandra and Bram Dijkstra have given the Huntington its first two paintings by African-Americans: Charles White’s Soldier (1944) and Robert Duncanson’s Landscape with Ruin (c. 1853). This is a coup for the Huntington as the paintings had been on loan to the San Diego Museum of Art. Bram Dijkstra is an art historian who long taught at UC San Diego.

Chicago-born Charles White lived in L.A. for most of his career. Soldier is a relatively early work, made about when the artist was drafted at age 26. It was made the year after White’s most famous work, the Hampton University mural of The Contribution of the Negro to Democracy in America.

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