LOVE LETTERS written by Tupac Shakur and a crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. in a now iconic shoot are going up for auction as part of a historic Sotheby’s sale.
The auction is Sotheby’s first ever dedicated to hip hop.
It will feature over 120 lots, including unique artefacts, contemporary art and rare ephemera.
The love letters penned by a teenage Shakur mention Jada (Pinkett-Smith). It is estimated they will fetch $60,000-$80,000 at auction.
The plastic crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. in his last known photoshoot is the lead item in the auction. Biggie Smalls was killed in Los Angeles just three days after he was photographed in the headpiece.
Barron Claiborne, photographer and consignor, said: “After 23 years in my possession, 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 immortalised as not only the King of New York, but a king of hip hop music and one of the greatest artists of all time.”
Sotheby’s estimate the crown, the interior of which is signed by both Biggie Smalls and Claiborne, will sell for between $200,000-$300,000.
A portion of Sotheby’s proceeds will go to the Queens Public Library hip hop programmes and Building Beats, a non-profit community organisation focused on DJ and music programmes.
Cassandra Hatton, vice president and senior specialist in Sotheby’s books and manuscripts department, said: “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.
“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.”
The auction has been organised in collaboration with Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records.
It will take place on 15 September.
An exhibition showcasing the items included in the auction will be available to view by appointment in Sotheby’s New York galleries from 11-15 September. A digital version of the exhibition will also be available to view online.