Maya Angelou’s Art Collection With Unique Faith Ringgold Portrait Heads to Auction

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Maya Angelou (1993), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $1,000–1,500. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Maya Angelou (1993), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $1,000–1,500. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Maya Angelou, the pioneering African American author and poet, also had quite the art collection, featuring a number of prominent African American artists. On September 15, Swann Galleries’ African-American fine art department will offer her collection at the sale “The Art Collection of Maya Angelou.”

Of the over 500 artworks the author owned when she died in May of 2014, 43 pieces will be available in the Swann sale, which will also run on eBay’s live auction platform.

“The collection of Dr. Angelou shows the natural affinity this great American poet, writer, thinker and educator had with many visual artists,” noted Nigel Freeman, the auction house’s director of African-American art, in a statement.

Elizabeth Catlett, Two Generations (1979), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $4,000–6,000. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Elizabeth Catlett, Two Generations (1979), from Maya Angelou’s collection. The pre-sale estimate is $4,000–6,000.
Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

“For my mother, paintings, sculpture, dance and music were ways of translating the intangible into digestible bites; these forms of art were ways of expressing feelings and emotions that resisted the confinement of words,” wrote Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson, in the introduction for the sale catalogue. “She appreciated a well-turned, lyrical phrase as much as the lines and contours of a well sculpted figure, or the transcending brush strokes that accent an image.”

In 2009, the Guardian‘s Gary Younge described the writer’s Harlem home as “a lordly brownstone, custom-built, complete with a lift, in the bosom of the area that produced so many of the poets she is keen on reciting. On the first floor, the walls are decked with paintings, including several jazz trumpeters and a watercolor of Rosa Parks sitting at the front of the bus, alongside a Faith Ringgold work entitled Maya’s Quilt Of Life, and several African wall hangings.”

Faith Ringgold, Maya's Quilt of Life (1989), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $150,000–250,000. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Faith Ringgold, Maya’s Quilt of Life (1989), from Maya Angelou’s collection. The pre-sale estimate is $150,000–250,000.
Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

That Ringgold work, a painted story quilt commissioned by Oprah Winfrey as a gift for the poet’s 60th birthday in 1989, is the anticipated top lot of the upcoming sale. The piece, which depicts the author as a young woman walking along a wooded path, incorporates handwritten texts quoting several of her writings, including the seminal I Know What the Caged Bird Sings.

Romare Bearden, The Obeah's Choice (1984), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $20,000–30,000. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Romare Bearden, The Obeah’s Choice (1984), from Maya Angelou’s collection. The pre-sale estimate is $20,000–30,000.
Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Angelou hung the piece, which Ringgold created using both painting and quilting techniques, in a prominent location in her home, but it has never been publicly displayed. If the work comes anywhere the pre-sale estimate of $150,000–250,000, it will far exceed the artist’s existing record at auction, which is just $15,000, according to the artnet Price Database.

The Parks piece, Artis Lane‘s The Beginning, is estimated at $1,500–2,500.

John Biggers, Kumasi Market (1962), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $100,000–150,000. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

John Biggers, Kumasi Market (1962), from Maya Angelou’s collection. The pre-sale estimate is $100,000–150,000.
Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

The sale will also include the monumental John Biggers painting, Kumasi Market, a bustling scene of a Ghanaian market in the late 1950s. The piece could fetch between $100,000 and $150,000.

The auction lots will be on view at Swann Galleries Sept. 9–12 and 14–15, offering the public their only chance to view the collection in its entirety.

Melvin Edwards, OWWA Maya (2011), from Maya Angelou's collection. The pre-sale estimate is $8,000–12,000. Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Melvin Edwards, OWWA Maya (2011), from Maya Angelou’s collection. The pre-sale estimate is $8,000–12,000.
Photo: courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

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Lauren Bacall’s Art Collection to Hit Auction in Widely Anticipated Second Sale

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Maya Angelou Immortalized by Postal Service With Photorealistic Portrait


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