Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

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Lot 36
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

Sold for US$ 425,312 inc. premium
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)
Sting Like A Bee, 1978
Felt pen and acrylic paint on paper
Unsigned
Framed

This original painting was done by Muhammad Ali during the filming of Freedom Road in Natchez, Mississippi, 1978. It was done in preparation for the later screenprint of the same name. Rodney Hilton Brown would fly down to Natchez to work on these sketches and paintings whilst Ali was filming. The painting shows a victorious Ali standing over his opponent in the ring with his opponent saying "Ref, he did float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!" whilst the referee is fleeing the ring saying "Yes, if you were smart, you run like me". The phrase "Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee" was first uttered by Ali in 1964 before his first fight with Sonny Liston. Still going by his birth name of Cassius Clay Jr., Ali was considered the underdog; Liston had reigned supreme as the World Heavyweight Champion for two years and Ali taunted Liston in the weeks before the fight and before he entered the ring he pronounced "Float like a Butterfly. Sting like a bee. The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see." Ali won the fight by technical knockout. With his rhyming delivery and freestyle skills, Ali was a massive influence on hip hop music, with many hip hop musicians citing Ali as their greatest influence.
The work is part of a series of preparatory works and duplicate artworks done for a set of four fine art, signed, limited edition silkscreen prints. This work was released in a limited edition of 500 in 1979. This work is the only artwork to include a complete Muhammad Ali poem.

Provenance: From the Collection of Rodney Hilton Brown, formerly President of Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd., publisher of Muhammad Ali's limited edition silkscreen prints, 1978.
Exhibited: Muhammad Ali: World Premier Art Exhibition, Roseland Grand Ballroom, New York, January, 1979.
Literature: BROWN, Rodney Hilton, Muhammad Ali: The Untold Story: Painter, Poet & Prophet, Fairhaven, MA: The War Museum Press, 2021, p. 65 (illus.)
Frame: 17 x 20 1/2 in.
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