Cosby family aims to inspire Smithsonian visitors with their African-American art collection

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African-American art opened Nov. 9 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

The concept of showing the African-American art at that museum is reflected in the exhibit’s name: “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue.”

The collection belongs to Camille and Bill Cosby who started acquiring art early in their 50-year marriage. As Camille told Gwen Ifill, “I just want people to not only think about these pieces, I want them to feel these pieces. I want them to feel the periods, the time when the artist did the works. I want them to feel the beauty, I want them to feel maybe the obstacles that these artists encountered, whether they were racial, or whether they were gender obstacles, or whatever the obstacles were, but I also just want them to feel the integrity of the work. I want them to feel the victory of the work despite it all, just feel it, each and every piece.”

There are 62 painting, sculptures, mixed-media and textile works from their collection which join 100 traditional, modern and contemporary artworks from the collection of African art.

Camille Cosby told Gwen about how empowering it was for their daughter and all of their children growing up around it. She hopes that will be true for anyone who now sees the art on public display:

The Cosbys shared with Gwen the meaning behind the large Elizabeth Catlett sculpture Bill Cosby commissioned in honor of his wife. Catlett is best known for her expressionistic sculptures and prints she produced in the 1960’s and 1970’s:

The exhibit runs through early 2016 as part of the National Museum of African Art’s 50th anniversary.