Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Cosby Family Collection @ The Smithsonian

Homage to Langston Hughes (c) Charles White
Art collector Don Rubell has said “…it is; I believe, deeply rooted in my genes.” Don and Mera Rubell are among the world’s fore-most collectors of contemporary art. You might even imagine the couple as having “Rock Star” status among the finest of the collectors breed. The same can certainly be said for Bill and Camille Cosby. The Cosby’s have been collecting passionately since the nineteen sixties. Early on their interest revolved around the great works of Charles White. They have expanded extensively in the decades since. The Cosby Family Collection is comprehensive and deeply ingrained historically with the work of the African-American. It is massive, monumentally engaging and a thing of true beauty. 

The Thankful Poor (c) Henry O Tanner                                             

The National Museum of African Art is currently exhibiting the Bill and Camille Cosby Family Collection along with their permanent collection of African art from the continent. The Cosby collected works will be on view into early 2016. The works and artist included range from portraits by the early American Joshua Johnston to contemporary pieces by Whitfield Lovell. Henry O. Tanner’s “The Thankful Poor” is a work of creative and artistic importance that hasn’t been on public view for decades is featured within the exhibit. It is a work of strength and character; a national treasure unto itself. Elizabeth Catlett’s sculpture along with Alma Thomas’ color-field semi abstractions are high lights. Legendary artists Edward Bannister, Arron Douglas, Archibald Motley Jr. and Romare Bearden all represented on display and in grand style.  This is a rare opportunity as it is a journey through time and centuries of art that are very much unique to a private collection. 

Maternity  (c)  Elizabeth Cattlett

Artist and Art Historian David Driskell became a consultant to the Cosby’s in the nineteen eighties. He has lovingly and accurately since guided and assisted on the acquisition decisions of the Cosby couple. Driskell curated an exhibition in 1976 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that opened the eyes of the world to the depth, quality and richness of African-American Art. The catalogue of the exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art” was published nationally and became a “Bible” of sort and guide for researchers, enthusiast and collectors for years after. Driskell went on to author and edit other fabulous books including the treasured volume; “The Other Side of Color.” It high-lights the now historic Cosby Collection and features the Cosby’s thoughts and comments on their collecting philosophy and tastes. Erica Cosby; the daughter of Bill and Camille, who is now an art scholar and artist  gives an interesting dialogue on the perspective of growing up with one of the nation’s premier art collections. An example of Erica’s painterly artistic talent is on display in the exhibit as well.

Portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby (c) Simmie Knox

Bill Cosby is well known to the world as comedian, actor, philanthropist and humanitarian. He has contributed much to world culture in various personas. It is the best that a person has offered that we celebrate. Cosby is a giant among his peers and a friend to the many. We are now able to see Bill Cosby; Art Collector as he offers his contribution to the dialogue on great art. It is the spirit and love of the height of world culture as expressed in the mysterious, marvelous things we see and cherish that we join him in joy; in admiration. The collection within it’s glory is a thing sublime.

            At the National Museum of African Art                  

The Cosbys briefly discuss their views on Art.

Roots (c) Walter Williams                     

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