Fab 5 Freddy's MTV ring

Sotheby’s closed on Tuesday evening its first auction dedicated to hip-hop, achieving $2 million with 91 percent of all lots sold.

Cassandra Hatton, the vice president and senior specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, said she was blown away by the initial support of the auction. “The thing that struck me the most about this sale was the massive amount of positivity and love and support people had for the sale,” she said. And the results also signified the shift in collectors’ interests and the impact Black culture has had on society.

The auction kicked off on Sept. 11 with a slew of artworks, art installations, fashion pieces and experiences, among others, for hip-hop acts in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, including Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., Salt-N-Pepa, Slick Rick, Fab 5 Freddy, Big Daddy Kane and more. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Queens Public Library Hip-Hop Programs and Building Beats, a nonprofit organization focused on DJ and music programs.

The crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. in the 1997 King of New York photo shoot for Rap Pages magazine, which was his last recorded photo shoot, led the auction, selling for $600,000. High school love letters from Tupac that he wrote as a teenager achieved $75,600 and the Rammellzee vs. K-Rob “Beat Bop” original sealed single with original artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat set the record for most expensive hip-hop vinyl sold at auction, achieving $126,000, over 50 times its estimate.

Notorious B.I.G. by Barren Claiborne for Rap Pages magazine in 1997

The crown worn in this photograph of Notorious B.I.G. by Barren Claiborne for Rap Pages magazine in 1997 sold for $600,000 in the auction.  Courtesy Photo

The Wall of Boom, an art installation created by Roc Nation DJ and collector DJ Ross One, sold for $113,400. Additional works sold at the auction included Fab 5 Freddy’s gold and diamond MTV ring ($35,280), Dr. Dre’s shiny red World Class Wrecking Cru “Rapped in Romance” suit ($32,760), a complete run of Source Magazine ($32,760), two Louis Vuitton x Supreme trunks ($88,200 each), and unreleased Air Jordan IV sneakers for Drake ($32,760).

“In the auction business, you have your traditional categories that are being sold, but if you want to attract new buyers, offer what they want,” Hatton said. She also revealed that the auction house would do another hip-hop-themed auction in the future.

Collectors’ interests long ago expanded beyond art and jewelry to include more consumer goods. For instance, Doyle New York is auctioning collector Jennifer Zuiker’s collection of Alexander McQueen couture and ready-to-wear.

Prior to this auction, which came one month after hip-hop’s birthday of Aug. 11, Sotheby’s turned to sneakers, launching online auctions for game-worn Air Jordan sneakers, Nike Handmade Waffle Spikes, and rare sports, film and music memorabilia. Last year, the auction house partnered with Stadium Goods on a sneaker auction.

Sneaker culture’s origins stem from Black culture, as does hip-hop, and the recently closed auction achieving $2 million further quantifies the influence of Black culture on the world. Hatton said successful people in the tech and finance worlds cite hip-hop as inspiration, and she included herself as one of the people inspired by the music genre.

“[The auction results] speak to how important hip-hop culture is, Black culture and the massive contributions that hip-hop has made,” she said. “It speaks to the buyers who are people who were inspired by hip-hop and speaks to the fact that hip-hop is art and has a profound impact on people emotionally.”

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