Who could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee?” Muhammad Ali was The Greatest—he even said so himself. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, the three-time heavyweight champion was an outspoken and often controversial public figure. In the early 1960s, Ali found friendship with renowned artist LeRoy Neiman, with whom he shared an affinity for boxing, the limelight and breaking with convention. Neiman even taught and encouraged Ali to draw.
Using works on loan from the LeRoy Neiman Foundation, the New-York Historical Society’s current exhibit Muhammad Ali, LeRoy Neiman, and the Art of Boxing celebrates Ali, one of America’s greatest and most popular athletes.
On display through March 26, Neiman’s vivid watercolors and intimate on-the-spot sketches capture Ali both in and outside the ring. Highlights include portraits, sketches of Ali’s critical matches such as the “Fight of the Century” and the “Thrilla in Manila,” and some works created by Ali himself.
Also on display at the New-York Historical Society through March 26 is I Am King of the World: Photographs of Muhammad Ali by George Kalinsky.
For more than 50 years, Kalinsky has captured iconic moments in sports as Madison Square Garden’s in-house photographer—a job he landed, in part, after bluffing his way into Ali’s workout session in December 1965. Their encounter launched a decades-long friendship that lasted until Ali’s death in 2016.
Through 45 intimate works, this inspiring photo exhibition reveals flashes of The Champ’s life out of the ring while sharing moments with fans and the press, as well as in the ring during the explosive matches that helped make him The Greatest.
“Muhammad Ali was an American legend, a celebrity whose remarkable work ethic, athletic prowess and courage to stand up for his beliefs awe and inspire,” said Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “We are proud to present these two exhibitions, which offer a deeper understanding of The Champ through the eyes of two artists who knew him well and experienced his greatness firsthand.”
Kalinsky saw Ali through the lens of his camera, capturing The Champ in crisp reality, while another 20th-century artist and friend of Ali’s, LeRoy Neiman, saw him through a different medium, portraying many of the same moments Kalinsky captured through the stroke of his pencil and paint brush. See Ali through the eyes of two artistic greats.
The New-York Historical Society, located at 170 Central Park West at 77th Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Visit www.nyhistory.org or call 212-873-3400 for details.