On Tuesday, the auction house Sotheby's hosted the sale of 150 pieces of hip-hop history. Artifacts like the gold crown that the Notorious B.I.G. was last photographed in, letters written by Tupac Shakur to his high school sweetheart, and ephemera from acts like Wu-Tang Clan and Salt n' Peppa sold for well over their anticipated auction price, confirming the art world's consideration of hip-hop as a major and influential part of contemporary culture.
From CBS News:
"For Sotheby's and the art market, it's extremely significant," said Sotheby's Senior Specialist Cassanda Hatton, who has been working on the collection for more than two years. "I just said, 'I'm doing this. This is important.' And nobody stopped me."
The highest-selling piece in the auction was the crown that the Notorious B.I.G. wore in Barron Claiborne’s 1997 “King of New York” photo shoot. It went for $594,750, almost twice what was expected. Other notable pieces include the jacket from Salt n Peppa's iconic "Push it" music video.
The auction is just the latest indication of hip-hop's increasingly significant role in modern culture. The past decade has been defined by hip-hop's domination of pop charts and the dominant culture across social apps like TikTok and Instagram is heavily influenced by Black users.
If the current cultural climate is any indication, this is likely only the beginning of hip-hop's takeover of the art world. For now, a portion of the auction's proceeds will be donated to Building Beats, a nonprofit from the Queens Public Library that supports community hip-hop programs. A good sign for coming generations.