June 17, 2024

More details about Biggie and Tupac auction at Sotheby’s

Well-known international auction house Sotheby’s will pay tribute to hip-hop next week with its first auction dedicated to the culture. 

On Sept. 15 in New York, Sotheby’s will let buyers place bids on hip-hop memorabilia, some items dating back to the 1970s.

One of the most iconic items up for auction is the crown worn by Brooklyn-born Biggie Smalls during the 1997 “King of New York” photo shoot. The portrait he took with that crown was his last before he was killed in Los Angeles three days later. 

The auction will also feature more than 20 love letters written by a young, 16-year-old Tupac Shakur to his high school sweetheart.

Read More: Tupac Shakur gets apology after governor accuses him of unemployment fraud

“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 and Manuscripts Dept. said.

“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.”


American rapper Notorious BIG (born Christopher Wallace) attends the 1995 Billboard Music Awards, New York, New York, December 6, 1996. (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage)

The crown was obtained by photographer Barron Claiborne, who has had it in his possession since the now renowned photoshoot. Included in this lot are three specially sized prints, signed by Claiborne, of the iconic ‘K.O.N.Y’ photograph, the 10th anniversary K.O.N.Y. photograph, and the contact sheet, which is estimated to sell around  $200,000-$300,000. The interior of the crown is signed by both Biggie and Claiborne.

“I’m very excited to share this iconic piece of Hip Hop history with the public. With the tragic events that unfolded just days after the photoshoot, this image of a crowned Notorious B.I.G. became much more than a portrait – the image transformed Biggie Smalls into an aristocratic or saint like figure, forever immortalized as not only the King of New York, but a king of Hip Hop music and one of the greatest artists of all time, ” said Claiborne. 


Rapper Tupac Shakur poses for photos backstage after his performance at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in March 1994. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

22 autographed love letters written by a 16-year-old Tupac Shakur to Kathy Loy, a high school sweetheart from the Baltimore School for the Arts are estimated to sell at around  $60,000-$80,000. The lot includes 42 pages on 24 sheets of paper and one greeting card.  Tupac signed all the letters. 

Shakur would have been in the 10th grade when he wrote the letters. He and Loy took theater classes at the school.  The letters span from late March 1987 to April 1988, from their meeting to an eventual breakup. 

The letters even show Shakur’s close friendship with fellow student Jada Pinkett. In one letter he wrote “Jada told me she can see how much I love you…”

Shakur also wrote about his doubts about his music career. He wrote, “my old manager came over and said she doesn’t want me to retire from rap but I think I am because I can’t handle too much rejection and I don’t have the time…”

Shakur also admitted to fearing rejection and his lack of confidence, noting that “I just want to be less sensitive and less of a pest…. What I am feeling has to do with my insecurities, and I have to handle that on my own…”.

In the final letter, Tupac penned  to ‘Ms. Loy’  nearly a year after the pair’s break up, Shakur shared how he has moved out of his mother’s home and sincerely expresses regret over their break-up. 

Read More: Will Smith admits he was ‘insecure’ and jealous of wife Jada and Tupac’s friendship

Overall, the sale will feature more than 120 pieces including:  unique 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, important publications, and more. 

The majority of items in the sale have been consigned directly by artists or their estates and the full contents of the auction will be announced at a later date.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Queens Public Library Foundation, to support their Hip Hop Programs and also Building Beats, a non-profit organization that teaches tech, entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through music programs. 

Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records (1981-1998), collaborated with Sotheby’s to organize the event. Lynch helped launch the careers of legends Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Naughty by Nature, among many others.

Those interested in viewing the auction items in person will need to set up an appointment in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beforehand. Slots are open from September 11th– 15th. The public can also see the  exhibition online.

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