WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Actor and comedian Bill Cosby will loan select pieces from his renowned private collection of African American artwork to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art for its 50th anniversary exhibitions and events.
"Bill and Camille Cosby began acquiring the more than 300 African American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings more than four decades ago, based on their personal tastes rather than on investment value," the Smithsonian said in a statement, assessing Cosby's artwork as "one of the world's preeminent private collections of African American art."
The Cosby collection includes work by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Keith Morrison, Faith Ringgold, Augusta Savage, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Alma Thomas. With only a single exception, none of the work has been made available to the public before.
"It's so important to show art by African American artists in this exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art," Cosby said in a video message for the Smithsonian.
"To me, it's a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long, some of whom will speak no more."
The Smithsonian described Cosby as the ideal ambassador of African American art because, "Bill Cosby also introduced African American art to millions worldwide as a prominent feature of his landmark television series three decades ago."
"Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue," opens Nov. 9.