According to a Sotheby’s press release, this will mark the first hip-hop auction to ever be presented at a major international auction house, and is meant to reflect how the genre has impacted art and culture over the last four decades.
Included in the auction is the crown that Biggie wore during the “K.O.N.Y.” (King of New York) portrait session, his last recorded photoshoot in 1997 before he was killed in Los Angeles three days later. The photographer, Barron Claiborne, offered the crown, which remained in his possession. Included in the lot are three specially sized prints of Biggie’s legendary photograph, the 10th anniversary K.O.N.Y. photograph, and the contact sheet (estimate $200,000 to $300,000).
Another auction item is the archive of 22 autographed love letters written by 16-year-old 2Pac to Kathy Loy, a high school sweetheart and fellow student at the Baltimore School for the Arts (estimate $60,000 to $80,000).
In total, the collection will feature more than 120 items, including artifacts, contemporary art, one of a kind experiences, photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and newly designed jewelry and luxury items, rare ephemera—including flyers and posters—significant publications, and more. Most of the items have been endorsed by the included artists themselves or their estates.
As the press release notes, part of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Queens Public Library Foundation, in support of their Hip-Hop Programs and Building Beats, a nonprofit that uses DJ and music programs to teach tech, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills to underserved youth.
Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records, organized the auction. During her time at the label, she helped launch the careers of Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Naughty by Nature among others.
“Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s, Hip Hop has become a global cultural force, whose massive influence continues to shape all realms of culture: music, fashion, design, art, film, social attitudes, language, and more,” Cassandra Hatton, Vice President & Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts Department, said in a statement.
She continued, “This sale is a celebration of the origins and early eras of that influence. We are pleased to announce the auction with two renowned and beloved icons whose lives and lyricism continue to resonate—Biggie and Tupac—with lots that offer an introspective look, in their own way, at the personalities behind their respective public personas.”