The late Muhammad Ali, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 74, was known principally for his athletic prowess in the boxing ring and his passion as an outspoken social and civil rights activist. Many didn’t know, however, that Ali was also a visual artist.
Five pieces drawn and signed by Ali are up for auction as part of a larger estate sale from New York’s RoGallery. They date from 1979 and deal with a wide range of subjects, from his religious faith in Mosque II to his career in Sting Like a Bee and his political activism in Let My People Go — the last of which was originally commissioned by the World Federation of United Nations Associations.
The sale had been planned since before Ali’s death. The works come from the personal collection of Baird Jones, a routine figure in New York’s art and nightclub scene. Jones also ran with everyone from Andy Warhol’s Factory and Studio 54 before passing away in 2008.
The auction will take place online, where more than 71% of collectors have made art purchases, and will also feature unique pieces from other well-known celebrities and public figures who aren’t famous for visual art, including musician Phil Collins, author Henry Miller, and serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
RoGallery owner Robert Rogal described the Muhammad Ali prints as the man’s “personality, his life, in visual form.”
“I knew the Muhammad Ali was a hit from the day I got it,” Rogal told Artnet. Originally priced at $200, these limited edition and signed prints have gone for as much as $2,900 at auction — “and that was before he passed away,” Rogal added. Other items in the auction have starting bids ranging from $50 to $2,000.
The unique style of Muhammad Ali’s drawings is emblematic of Ali himself, Rogal said. “He was not trained in poetry; he was not trained in drawing… he had a natural talent.”