Smithsonian defends continuing exhibit featuring Bill Cosby’s art collection
Over the past seven months, as sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Cosby mounted, a top Smithsonian official met privately with museum directors across the sprawling complex on the National Mall to decide what to do about an exhibit showcasing Cosby's private art collection.
While many companies and universities were distancing themselves from the comedian, Smithsonian officials ultimately concluded the exhibit should continue.
“First and fundamentally, this is an art exhibit,” Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's undersecretary for art, history and culture told The Associated Press. “So it's not about the life and career of Bill Cosby. It's about the artists.”
About a third of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art's 50th anniversary exhibition came from Bill and Camille Cosby's extensive African-Amer- ican art collection, and twothirds came from the museum's own collection.
Most of the Cosby collection had never before been seen by the public. It includes paintings by one-time slaves, pieces commissioned for the Cosbys, a piece by Cosby's daughter and quilts made in tribute to Cosby and his slain son, Ennis. The exhibit also includes images of Cosby and quotations from him.
Even without the assault allegations, the exhibit raised con- cerns. Some critics frown on showcasing a private collection in a prominent museum because it can enhance the artwork's market value. Also, Camille Cosby sits on the museum's board and initiated the loan, which raises questions about conflicts of interest.
Now the Smithsonian has revealed to The Associated Press that the Cosbys also funded the exhibition with a $716,000 gift, which virtually covers the entire cost.