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WASHINGTON (AP) — The director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art says that if she had been aware of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, she wouldn’t have moved forward with an exhibit featuring artworks owned by the comedian and his wife.

In a first-person piece in “The Root” online magazine Wednesday, Johnnetta B. Cole said that she’s “devastated” by allegations but that the exhibit should stay open because it’s about the “interplay of artistic creativity,” not Cosby’s life and career.

The museum has stood by the exhibit that opened in November as the allegations got more attention and after last month’s release of a 2005 deposition in which Cosby acknowledged getting sedatives to give to women before sex.

Cole says the museum didn’t hide the fact that the Cosbys funded the exhibition with a $716,000 gift but should have made that more clear.

“When we accepted the gift and loan, I was unaware of the allegations about Bill Cosby. Had I known, I would not have moved forward with this particular exhibition,” she wrote. “Today, although we are painfully aware of the controversy that surrounds Bill Cosby, ‘Conversations’ remains open because art speaks for itself, not its owners. And the African-American art in this exhibition has so much to say that has long been silenced.”

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. The museum announced last month that it would post a sign telling visitors that the exhibit is about the artists, not a tribute to the comedian.

The exhibit has also raised concerns about conflicts of interest and transparency. Camille Cosby, who sits on the museum’s board, initiated the loan. Showcasing a private collection in a prominent museum is frowned upon by some since it can enhance artworks’ market value. Cole said the museum reviewed Camille Cosby’s proposal “in accordance with established policies in our museum, the Smithsonian and the art-museum field.”

The Smithsonian recently revealed to The Associated Press that the Cosbys funded the exhibition with the $716,000 gift. Museum industry guidelines call for museums to make public the source of funding when an art lender funds an exhibit.

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8 thoughts on “Smithsonian Official: I Wouldn’t Have Opened Cosby Exhibit

  1. blkwrestl on said:

    Leave the man alone. He is innocent until proven guilty. These “women” are questionable at best. How could you wait all of these years and come forward now? Ask yourself if something of this nature occurred to you and you have family and friends who care for you , how could you not come forward? If anything like this happened to a member of my immediately family, I promise you it would have been resolved then not later. I just cannot believe the allegations.

  2. Hindsight, Dr. Cole. With all due respect, if ANYONE knew of the allegations and Cosby’s dark past, NO ONE would have exhibited his work or supported him. We can only go on what we assume or think we know about someone until the truth is revealed. Cosby had a tremendous legacy and HE screwed it up (NO pun intended). I don’t feel sorry for him but I feel for his victims, his family, and those who benefited from his mentorship. Even if he can’t be brought to justice now, he still needs to get some psych help.

    • specialt757 on said:

      “I feel for…those who benefited from his mentorship.” Why? They benefited, that’s a good thing right? I do feel for the “victims” too because they are being “played” they are being used as pawns. The whole time while in his presence they wanted what he had to offer, now they’re “victims”…RIGHT!

    • Tammy on said:

      Call me mean but I do not feel sorry for these women either. If Cosby did this and they sat by for YEARS and allow him to go on and on tv, making more money, getting more success, and did NOTHING and now wants us the public to believe them and want us to trash Cosby now, that was stupidity on their part. Cosby was not an unknown man who can run away and hide (again, I do not want to hear the excuses, he was famous and used his money. The mob has more power and money than Cosby and even they can not get away with much if people tell on them). I still say many of these women did drugs with Cosby or they were trying to use him but got used themselves. It is just like a conartist telling you he got $10,000 to give you in a bag and can you go to your bank and get money out, when you do and you get the so called bag of money that you got from conartist, you see that you have no money in the bag and your money is gone. You tried to play someone but you got played yourself.

      • specialt757 on said:

        Agree Tammy, I just had a hard time with this tho: It is just like a conartist telling you he got $10,000 to give you in a bag and can you go to your bank and get money out, when you do and you get the so called bag of money that you got from conartist, you see that you have no money in the bag and your money is gone.” hahaha You’d have to be one BIG DUMMY to fall for that.

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