While boxing legend Muhammad Ali is universally revered for his humanitarian efforts, commitment to social justice, and exploits inside of the squared circle, PBS’ recent Muhammad Ali documentary proved that he was much more than meets the eye.
To that end, the Washington Post reports that little known artwork from the three-time heavyweight champion was put up for auction, Tuesday, and sold for nearly $1 million:
Dozens of drawings from American boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016 at the age of 74 after years of battling Parkinson’s disease, sold for nearly $1 million at auction in New York City on Tuesday.More than 30 of Ali’s drawings and sketches from the private collection of his mentor Rodney Hilton Brown were part of an auction of sports memorabilia called “TCM Presents … It’s a Knockout!” organized in New York by the British auction house Bonhams. The auction also included items related to Ali, or that used to belong to the boxer, like his boxing gloves.
The centerpiece of the collection, a 1978 painting entitled “Sting Like a Bee,” which Ali drew while starring in the historical drama “Freedom Road” in Mississippi, fetched $425,312 at auction — ten times the original estimated sale price of $40,000 to $60,000.
Other pieces that were sold include a 1979 painting entitled “I Love You America,” which sold for $150,312. Another preparatory sketch of “Sting Like a Bee,” went for $637.
Ali’s affinity for art and poetry can be traced back, in part, to his relationship with his old friend Rodney Hilton Brown. His father, Cassius Clay Sr., was also an artist who created billboards, signs, and ecclesiastical paintings in Baptist churches.
According to Bonhams, “Rodney Hilton Brown first met Ali in 1977 after a charity boxing match to benefit the Elma Lewis School of Art in Boston. Rodney was looking for Outsider Artists and new talent for his art gallery in New York. Armed with a briefcase of paints and canvases, Rodney asked Ali if he was interested in painting. To his delight, Ali agreed to meet him later that night.”
“That night,” the auction house explains, “Ali did three paintings and presented them to Rodney. […] Rodney and Ali began to chat regularly by telephone and this led to regular painting sessions at Rodney’s apartment in New York or various hotel rooms wherever Ali happened to be staying. The two became firm friends, with Ali calling Rodney his ‘Vanilla Brother.’”
Clearly, Ali had plenty to offer to the world, and his legacy will live on in not only his achievements both in and outside of the ring, but his artwork.