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Kerry James Marshall Applauds Chicago’s Choice Not to Auction His Painting That Hung at a Local Library

November 7, 2018

Kerry James Marshall, Knowledge and Wonder (1995). Photo courtesy of Christie's.



The city of Chicago has decided against its plan to auction Kerry James Marshall’s painting Knowledge and Wonder (1995), currently housed at the Chicago Public Library, following widespread criticism of the decision, including from the artist himself.


“It’s the right decision to make,” Marshall told the Chicago Tribune. The proposed sale “seemed like a way of exploiting the work of artists in the city for short-term gain in a really shortsighted kind of way. It certainly would make one believe there’s no reason to do anything because you have some kind of civic pride as a citizen.”


The city has withdrawn the painting from the upcoming November 15 auction at Christie’s New York, where it carried a pre-sale estimate of $10 million–15 million. It had paid just $10,000 for the 10-by-23-foot long painting, which depicts African American adults and children standing before an array of larger-than-life books. The City of Chicago Public Art Program commissioned the work as part of the Percent for Art Ordinance, which requires that Chicago’s municip