A combination of 26 drawings and prints were sold at Bonhams auction house in New York this week, raking in over $1.3 million.
The collection of works by Ali, belonging to close friend Rodney Hilton Brown, set a new record for the late boxer.
According to Bonhams auctioneers, 26 artworks by Ali sold for a total of $1,302,087, three times more than the minimum estimate of their value.
Well known for his boxing prowess, activism, and poetry Ali is less known for his artistic ability.
One of the most anticipated works Sting Like A Bee (1978) was painted during the filming of Freedom Road in the late ’70s and includes a complete poem. This particular piece was the most sought-after work amongst 26 paintings.
It sold for $584, 227, ten times the low estimate, setting a new world auction record for an Ali original piece.
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“Ref! he did float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! Yes, if you were smart you run like me!”
One of Ali’s most memorable lines, the boxer was famous for his quick Witt inside and outside the ring.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see. Now you see, now you don’t…” – Muhammad Ali#MuhammadAli #Champion #Icon #GOAT #Legend pic.twitter.com/I5Tw7k7yBm
— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) July 29, 2021
Helen Hall, Bonhams Director of Popular Culture said:
“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,”
Ali was encouraged by his father Cassius Clay Sr, a professional artist who painted altarpieces for churches, as well as signs and billboards, throughout Kentucky.
Through his boxing career, Ali also befriended sports artist LeRoy Neiman, who fueled and encouraged his artistic pursuits as the pair would draw side by side when hanging out.
“Ali’s work fits into the realm of Outsider Art, but the wonderful thing about his artwork is that he poured into them those subjects that were close to his heart,” Hall said.
The artworks first surfaced days after Ali’s death, following his long battle with Parkinson’s. With increased interest in recent years, this sale outperformed previous expectations.
See the full list of Alis works here.