BILL COSBY: BEYOND THE SCANDAL there is the question of the art collection

BEYOND THE SCANDAL there is the question of the art collection.

Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2 . . . Shakespeare

ANTONY: Friends, Romans, countrymen,  
lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

And so let it be with Bill Cosby --- but the goodat least for the African

American art community, lies in the art collection, "bequeathed as a rich legacy"

Let's not

bury the collection --- let's honor it.  

National Museum of African Art Statement “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”

July 7, 2015

The National Museum of African Art is aware of the recent revelations about Bill Cosby’s behavior. The museum in no way condones this behavior. Our current “Conversations” exhibition, which includes works of African art from our permanent collection and African American art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not the owners of the collections.

"The artworks from the Cosby collection are being seen by the public for the first time. The exhibition brings the public’s attention to African American artists whose works have long been omitted from the study and appreciation of American art."

the following is a statement from the International Review of African American Art ...

Redemption Song 

Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue from the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr., NMAfA Washington, D.C., November 9, 2014 – January 24, 2016 --- "After the Conversations exhibition’s November 9 opening, this close-knit community witnessed on-going, sexual assault allegations made about Bill Cosby. And now there are calls in major media for the Smithsonian to distance itself from the Cosbys, remove the Cosby-owned works from the show or even close it entirely."

The claim from the critics is, that the art has been stained.

"The evil that men do lives after them"; Bill Cosby will be judged long after he is gone by the scandal that swirls around him. But his life has yielded good things ... 

"The good is oft interred with their bones"; The Bill Cosby Show impacted the African American Arts Community in the 1980's, by giving their art high visibility to a mass market which would not have known of their existence. The Cosby private collection is a historical study of art that represents the Black Pride Movement.

The Smithsonian's decision to go ahead with the exhibit is making it possible for the world to see this collection and will keep it from being buried because of the fury of negative press.

The Bill and Camille Cosby Art Collection


(left) - Boy and the Candle,  1943, Gerard Sekoto

(right) - Thankful Poor,   Henry Ossawa Tanner

(left) - Gamin, (1929), Augusta Savage  

(right) Simmie Knox,  Portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby, (1984), oil on canvas

(left) Eldzier Cortor,  Still Life: Souvenir No. IV (1982), oil on canvas

(right) - Godfried Donkor, Slave To Champ, (1998), collage on paper (Smithsonian Collection)*

*The Smithsonian decided to hang these two pieces as a juxtaposition. The exhibit will integrate the Smithsonian African collection with the Cosby's collection. 

(below) - African American Quilts, by Camille Cosby's mother and grandmother and Faith Ringgold

(left) - Faith Ringgold birthday quilt

(right) - Joshua Johnson (American artist, 1763–1824) Young Lady on a Red Sofa with a Book, oil on canvas


(left) - Walter Williams 1920–1998, Roots, Southern Landscape, (1978), oil, sand, enamel, collage

(right) - Archibald J. Motley Jr. 1891–1981, United States, Senegalese Boy (1929), oil on canvas

(left) - David C. Driskell, The Green Chair from the American Series (1978)

(right) - Varnette Honeywood, Precious Memories (1984), collage 

Bill Cosby arranged to have art by black artists displayed on the walls of the sets of The Bill Cosby Show, giving them popular exposure, via TV.

(left) - Charles White (1918–1979), United States, Seed of Heritage, (1968), ink on illustration board

(right) - William Henry Johnson (1901–1970), United States, Untitled (Seated Woman)(1939), tempera and gouache on paper

(left) - Robert Colescott (1925–2009),  United States, Death of a Mulatto Woman, (1991), acrylic on canvas  




(right) - Romare Bearden (1911–1988), United States, Sitting In at Barron's, (1980)

(left) - Hughie Lee-Smith (1915–1999), United States, Festival’s End #2, (1987) oil on canvas

(below) - Jacob Lawrence 1917–2000, United States,Street Scene, Harlem,(1942), gouache on board

(left) - Erika Ranee Cosby (born 1965), United States, Hanging Out to Dry, (1991), shellac, oil, charcoal, pencil on canvas

(right) - David C. Driskell (born 1931), United States, Benin Head  (c. 1978). egg tempera on paper

We are going to end with this last work from the Cosby collection, 

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877–1968), United States, Peace Halting the Ruthlessness of War (1917), cast 1998 bronze

The ruthlessness of war -- fitting words to describe not only the attack on Bill Cosby but the attack on everything attached to him.

The Cosby family, despite the personal conflict that plagues them, wants the public and in particular the African American Community to experience the collection.

Link to more information on the dates and times of the exhibit

PRELUDE: Holland Cotter, a staff art critic at The New York Times, raised this question in an article he wrote in 2015, Continents in Conversation Bill Cosby’s Art Collection Joins African Art at Smithsonian: "Much has happened, and changed, in African-American art since Mr. Cosby began acquiring it more than 40 years ago. Yet the collection we see, even as it extends into the 1990s, seems sentimentally frozen in time, in an early black pride moment, distant from any black power moment, never mind whatever the present moment may be, is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, though it does make the collection feel out of touch with the present, and even with the history it professes to document. And it raises the question of how effectively the work would play on its own, without the electrifying stimulant of African art around it." 


International Review Of African American Art Criticism of the Exibition — Views From Outside and From Within, addresses the Cotter statement and the other critics that claim that "the African American works on view, as a whole, are lacking in visual power, political clout and contemporary relevance" .. to make sense of what is going on please read this article in the International Review ...

This whole turn of events will make for lively discussion this summer.

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