Bill Cosby’s Art Collection On Display at Smithsonian

More than 60 artworks from Bill and Camille Cosby’s private art collection are now on display with pieces of African works at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington.

This is the first time the works have been shown to the public. According to AP, the pieces include everything from “a masterwork that had remained hidden for a half-century before Camille Cosby recognized its value, to a quilt made from their slain son’s clothes (he was killed in 1997).” More about the Cosby works in “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”:

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The Thankful Poor

A centerpiece is The Thankful Poor, painted in 1894 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, a son of slaves who went to Paris and painted scenes that dignified black people at a time when they mostly suffered degrading images in popular culture.

The work depicts an elderly man and young boy in prayer at a humble dinner table. It had been left in basement storage at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for 50 years. Camille Cosby found the painting up for auction in 1981, and bought it for $250,000 as a Christmas gift for her husband. The bidding had started at $50,000.

“We didn’t collect to increase our assets because there weren’t any real values placed on art by African-Americans, no monetary value nor artistic value,” Camille Cosby said. “We collected because we really loved the pieces. We wanted to live with them.”

The greatest gift from amassing some 300 pieces of African-American art kept in their homes was that their children and grandchildren’s self-perceptions have been reinforced by positive images of black people, she said.

“Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue” is open now though January 24, 2016 at the National Museum of African Art in Washington. For more information, go here.