Harvard University has accepted Ghanaian-born German-based artist Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne’s portrait of poet Amanda Gorman as a donation from a private collector, dealer and activist Amar Singh. The portrait depicts Gorman as she appeared at Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on January 20th, 2021.
Last week, the 22-year-old Gorman, a Los Angeles-native and Harvard alum, became a break out star during a reading of her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the U.S. Capitol. Earlier this week, Gorman was signed to IMG Models in a deal aimed at developing editorial opportunities for Gorman in the fashion and beauty sectors. The young writer is also scheduled to speak during the pre-show for Super Bowl LV next month. Two forthcoming books by Gorman, a collection of poems titled, “The Hill We Climb,” and a picture book titled, “Change Sings” will be published later this year.
The painting, which features a face-less portrait of Gorman mid-speech set against a floral background, reimagines the main image from the poet’s viral inauguration moment. Visible is her birdcage ring, which Oprah Winfrey gave to Gorman for the occasion, recalling Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” recited at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, whose figurative works draw influence from his native Ghana, completed the portrait of Gorman in 5 days. The artist’s peers from Accra’s Ghanatta College of Art and Design include trending painters Amoako Boafo and Otis Quaicoe.
Singh, a member of the Kapurthala Royal Family of India and director of his eponymous gallery, who has gained recognition for his work promoting female post-war and contemporary artists, purchased the work for a price around €8,000 ($9,682) from art advisor and curator, Destinee Ross-Sutton. Singh, who was first introduced to Mayne’s work through Ross-Sutton’s current New York exhibition, “BLACK VOICES: Friend of My Mind,” described the work as, “a celebration of women, a celebration of Black women, a celebration of hope,” in a statement on the gift. “This work must be in an institution,” he concluded.
The painting will be housed at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, headed by prominent literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr., who accepted the donation for the center.