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P. Diddy Revealed as Buyer of $21 Million Kerry James Marshall Painting

Sean Combs, the rapper and producer known as P. Diddy, has been revealed to be the acquirer of Past Times, 1997, the Kerry James Marshall painting that sold at auction on Wednesday for $21.1 million, a price that, at nearly double the original estimate from Sotheby’s, shattered both expectations and the record for a living African American artist.

Jack Shainman, Marshall’s New York dealer, verified to the New York Times that Combs was the work’s buyer. “I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy—that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot,” Shainman, who has represented Marshall since 1993, told the New York Times.

The painting, which debuted at the Whitney Biennial in 1997, was sold to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago that same year for $25,000. The thirteen-by-nine-foot canvas, which depicts a black family picnicking in a Chicago park, was displayed in the agency’s McCormick Place convention building for years. 

The hip-hop artist began collecting art in 2011 and was introduced to Marshall’s work by musician and producer Swiss Beatz, who is also a passionate art collector (Combs’s collection also includes works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Ai Weiwei, and Jean-Michel Basquiat). Marshall’s work has received increased recognition lately due to numerous museum shows, including major retrospectives at the Met Breuer in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “The world is recognizing Kerry James Marshall for the master that he is,” Shainman said.