NEW YORK – On October 5, Bonhams will offer a collection of artwork by Muhammad Ali in TCM Presents…It’s a Knockout!, a sports memorabilia auction presented by Bonhams’ Popular Culture Department. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
A decorated boxer and celebrated activist, Ali harbored a lifelong passion for the arts. In 1967, the athlete produced a series of drawings for Avant Garde magazine, which serve as visual manifestations of his fervor for civil rights activism. A decade later in 1977, he returned to the craft of artmaking at the encouragement of Rodney Hilton Brown, author of Muhammad Ali: The Untold Story: Painter, Poet & Prophet. The works in this sale come directly from the personal collection of Hilton Brown, and comprise the largest collection of Ali’s artwork to ever be seen at auction.
Highlights include War In America, from the Avant Garde series, estimated at $25,000-$35,000, and Sting Like a Bee, estimated at $40,000-$60,000, which was painted by Muhammad Ali during the filming of Freedom Road in Mississippi in 1978. This work was originally released in a limited edition of 500 in 1979 and is the only artwork to include a complete Muhammad Ali poem.
Bonhams Director of Popular Culture, Helen Hall, commented, “Muhammad Ali was a cultural icon who defined a generation. His artwork depicts those subjects close to his heart: boxing, civil rights, religion and world peace and humanitarianism. This sale presents buyers with an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire unique and meaningful artwork made by ‘The Greatest of All Time.’”
The auction also includes a rare collection of sports memorabilia amassed during many years by Jim and Theresa Earle. Jim Earle was a prolific and selective buyer of artifacts and objects relating to some of the world’s most important sports stars, including boxers James Braddock, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey and Carmen Basilio, as well as baseball legends Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig.
Earle Collection highlights include:
A 1957 Carmen Basilio Hickok Award belt, estimated at $100,000- $150,000. This 14K yellow gold championship belt buckle was awarded to Carmen Basilio by the Hickok Foundation, December 1957, the same year he was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
A Babe Ruth baseball spike from his Red Sox days, estimated at $80,000-$120,000. This spike, a gift from Babe Ruth to his manager, has a distinctive toe plate that makes it a striking match to the pair Ruth donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, which was their very first acquisition. A talented pitcher for the Boston Red Sox from 1914-1919, Ruth grew unhappy with the lack of playing time afforded pitchers in the regular lineup. After disagreements with management, Ruth’s contract was sold to the New York Yankees, where he soon became an icon, and left the Red Sox to deal with the Curse of the Bambino, a World Series dry spell that lasted for more than 80 years.
A 1952 Rocky Marciano Hickok Award belt, estimated at $80,000-$120,000. This 14K gold Hickok award belt was earned by Rocky Marciano in 1952, when he won the World Heavyweight Championship by knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round. One of the hardest-hitting fighters ever, Marciano knocked out 43 of 46 opponents and retired undefeated at age 31 with a 49-0 record.
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