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July 13, 2015

Cosby's $716,000 gift concealed by Smithsonian amid rape allegations

Despite the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations against Bill Cosby, the Smithsonian decided to quietly continue an exhibit showcasing his private art collection, according to an Associated Press report in The Hollywood Reporter

As other organizations decided to disassociate from Cosby, Smithsonian officials ultimately chose to include his collection in its National Museum of African Art's 50th-anniversary exhibition.

"First and fundamentally, this is an art exhibit," Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's undersecretary for art, history and culture, reportedly told The Associated Press. "So it's not about the life and career of Bill Cosby. It's about the artists."

Bill and Camille Cosby's extensive African-American art collection makes up about a third of the exhibition while two-thirds came from the museum's own collection.

Most of the Cosby collection had never before been seen by the public. It includes paintings by one-time slaves, pieces commissioned for the Cosbys, a piece by Cosby's daughter and quilts made in tribute to Cosby and his slain son, Ennis. The exhibit also includes images of Cosby and quotations from him.
Even without the assault allegations, the exhibit raised concerns. Some critics frown on showcasing a private collection in a prominent museum because it can enhance the artwork's market value. Also, Camille Cosby sits on the museum's board and initiated the loan, which raises questions about conflicts of interest.

According to The Associated Press, the Smithsonian has revealed that the Cosbys also funded the exhibition with a $716,000 gift, virtually covering the entire cost. The museum reportedly did not disclose the financial donation on its website or in press materials.

The Smithsonian said the exhibit has drawn 150,000 visitors so far.

Read more from Hollywood Reporter.