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Art of Dr. Maya Angelou making first public exhibition

Fifty works of art collected by Dr. Maya Angelou will come to auction Sept. 15. The The Collection of Maya Angelou, presented for auction by Swann Galleries, marks the first time many of the pieces have been publicly exhibited.

NEW YORK — On September 15, 2015, Swann Galleries’ African-American Fine Art department is offering The Art Collection of Maya Angelou, an exclusive auction of 50 works of art collected by Dr.

Maya's Quilt of Life

Faith Ringgold, Maya’s Quilt of Life, acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, 1989. Estimate $150,000-$250,000. (Both photos courtesy Swann Galleries)

Angelou during her lifetime. The collection hung in her private residences, with only a few pieces occasionally lent to museums and institutions, making this the first time the majority of these works have been publicly exhibited.

Known best as an award-winning poet, writer, educator and activist, relatively few people outside her personal circle were aware of Dr. Angelou’s relationship to visual art. She cultivated friendships with many important African-American artists, both inspiring and finding inspiration in their work.

One piece inspired by Dr. Angelou is a story quilt by Faith Ringgold titled “Maya’s Quilt of Life,” 1989 (estimate $150,000-$250,000). A quintessential example of Ringgold’s intricate art form, the quilt was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey as a birthday gift for Dr. Angelou, and includes text from her poems and memoirs. This is the first of Ringgold’s story quilts to come to auction.

Other works directly inspired by Dr. Angelou include Alonzo Adam’s “Phenomenal Woman,” watercolor and pencil, 1993 ($3,000-$5,000), which includes an inscription from the artist to Dr. Angelou, and Melvin Edward’s “OWWA Maya,” welded steel, 2011 ($8,000-$12,000). Edward’s presented the sculpture to Dr. Angelou in 2011, when she was honored at the Organization of Women Writers of Africa’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Also offered is a painting by Dr. Angelou herself, “The Protector of Home and Family,” oil on canvas, 1969 ($15,000-$25,000). Painted shortly after the completion of her acclaimed autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Dr. Angelou’s painting is a strong visual statement of African-American women’s courage and strength.

The preview will be open to the public, with an exhibition open September 9-11. Visit for more details.

'Kumasi Market

John Biggers, 'Kumasi Market', oil and acrylic on masonite board, circa1962. ($100,000 to $150,000).

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