Dr. Maya Angelou, nee Marguerite Ann Johnson, was known for her civil-rights activities, her compelling first non-fiction bestseller “I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings” (1969), her famous gracefully-penetrating poem delivered at President William Jefferson Clinton’s 1993 inauguration “On The Pulse Of Morning” and the Presidential Medal of Freedom 2010 bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama, during and emotionally-charged ceremony. This beloved daughter of an independent, one-of-a-kind entrepreneur mother from the Caribbean, select pieces of art work, from her personal collection, adorned the walls of the Swann Gallery in New York City.
The broad collection of works of life from hardship to momentous-celebratory occasions stretched across all the walls in the Swann Auction Galleries near one of city university of New York’s institutions. The artists varied from wide popularity to distinguished in their own corner of the world. Outside of the main area of the art house, where “The Art Collection of Maya Angelou” was on display, was a Romare Bearden piece. A work symbolic of the collagist’s affection for jazz and patriotic themes.
Occupying a main wall, as you entered the gallery, was a Faith Ringgold commissioned story quilt titled, “Maya Quilt of Life” (1989). The birthday gift from media icon, philanthropist and OWN founder, Oprah Winfrey, was priced at $150,000 to $250,000. The extraordinary, colorful cloth bears Dr. Angelou’s treasured poetic work. This first in a story series for Ringgold was not sold at the time of the auction. According to the gallery, the quilt will find a home in an institution.
While Dr. Angelou’s attention to visual art was not underscored in her life, this preoccupation for Dr. Angelou was a reasonable expectation. In the Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Department’s “The Art Collection of Maya Angelou,” 50 compiled pieces by Dr. Angelou’s only author son, Guy Johnson, is a mirror image of the associations Dr. Angelou developed throughout her life. The pieces are gifts. There are items Dr. Angelou purchased but did not place in her residents from North Carolina to Harlem, NY.
One admirer of Dr. Angelou, interested in owning art work once the property of the icon, stated at the auction that she could not imagine the work of art, which had been placed in Dr. Angelou’s place of domiciliary in North Carolina. In her life, as in the show, Dr. Angelou acknowledged individuals and issues as presented. As result, North Carolina artist John Bigger’s oil painting, “Kumasi Market” (1962) has its presence in the show. North Carolinian Romare Bearden makes a splash with a steady stream of towering maternal figures. Among his pieces are: “The Obeah’s Choice,” 1984 and “Falling Star.”
In this remarkable show, where you could channel your energy through art in similar directions as Dr. Angelou, a few other artists showcased are Phoebe Beasley, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green and Samella Lewis.
For additional information, visit www.swann