Following last week’s news that the Smithsonian would stand by its much-criticized exhibition “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” which features a number of works from Bill and Camille Cosby’s personal collection, the Associated Press is now reporting that the Cosbys also gave the museum $716,000. As the report notes, that gift “virtually covers the entire cost” of the show.
Industry guidelines state that museums must disclose information about major donations made by art lenders to fund a show, though the Cosbys’ financial gifts to the museum were not mentioned in the press materials or on the website for the show. According to the AP report, the Smithsonian claimed that this information was available to the public upon request.
The Smithsonian currently has no plans to close “Conversations,” which will remain on view through January of next year. Nevertheless, the museum has made clear that it is aware of the ever-mounting allegations of Bill Cosby’s sexual abuse of multiple women, and his own recently unsealed admission that he procured drugs to offer to women for sex. In a statement last week, the Smithsonian’s head of communications wrote, “The museum in no way condones this behavior. Our current ‘Conversations’ exhibition, which includes works of African art from our permanent collection and African American art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not the owners of the collection.”