Over the course of his legendary career Bill Cosby and his wife Camille have amassed a large collection of over 300 pieces of African American art. Their collection is so rare and impressive that the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C is displaying over 60 pieces of the Cosby’s art.
Entitled “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” is an art exhibit that is currently running through January 24, 2016 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. The Cosby’s have been recognized by the Smithsonian as having some of the rarest African American art in the country.
One of the center pieces of their collection includes a piece “The Thankful Poor,” painted in 1894 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was the son of a slaves who relocated to Paris and created art pieces that depicted dignified African Americans at a time it was seldom seen in the art world. This particular piece was purchased by Camille at an action after it was discovered in basement storage at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. The starting bid was $50,000 and after a bidding frenzy, Camille walked away with this prize painting for a whopping $250,000.
Another piece of art the Cosby’s have on display includes a quilt made from the clothes of their slain son Ennis Cosby. Ennis was fatally shot in an attempted roadside robbery in 1997.
The Cosby’s personal collection made up of entirely African American art in an efforts to reinforce positive images to the younger Cosby generations that frequent their home. 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, We collected because we really loved the pieces. We wanted to live with them,” Camille Cosby was quoted as saying.