Diddy Revealed as the Buyer of Kerry James Marshall’s Record-Breaking $21 Million Painting

The hip-hop producer and rapper placed the winning bid at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

Sean Combs arrives for the 2018 Met Gala. Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images.

Who knew Diddy loved art this much?

Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer and rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs has been revealed to be the buyer of Kerry James Marshall’s monumental painting Past Times (1997), which sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s on Tuesday. The result is a world auction record for the artist, and is thought to be the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a living African-American artist.

Jack Shainman—Marshall’s long-time gallerist—confirmed the identity of the winning bidder in an article published by the New York Times. “I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye towards preserving legacy,” the dealer said. On Friday morning, the gallery congratulated Marshall on Twitter “for making history” and Diddy “for an amazing acquisition.”

Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times (1997). Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Speaking to the Times, Shainman said that Diddy was first introduced to Marshall’s work by fellow hip-hop producer and art collector Kaseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean. And Diddy reportedly viewed the work at Sotheby’s New York headquarters ahead of Tuesday night’s auction.

The record price comes amid significant market interest in the artist’s work. Marshall views himself as an artist who has dedicated his career to introducing images of people of color into museums and the history of art. His work mimics historic Impressionist painters such as Manet and Seurat though his renditions focus on representations of African Americans. 

Last year, a traveling retrospective at the Met Breuer, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles served as an important re-contextualization of his work, highlighting the importance of his practice, and establishing his position within the canon of American art.

Building on his record price, Marshall’s Untitled (Blanket Couple) (2014) sold at Phillips for $4.3 million on Thursday, cementing his place in the top-end of the auction market.


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