The first, Muhammad Ali, LeRoy Neiman, and the Art of Boxing, highlights Muhammad Ali’s friendship with LeRoy Neiman, a painter known for his colorful depictions of sporting and entertainment events. He painted everyone from world leaders like Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln; to celebrities like Frank Sinatra; to athletes like Jackie Robinson—even Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut. He also painted the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many other famous sites. But his favorite subject was Muhammad Ali. The exhibit includes many sketches and paintings that Neiman did during or after Ali’s matches.
The second exhibit, “I Am King of the World”: Photographs of Muhammad Ali by George Kalinsky is a collection of photographs by the official Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall Photographer, George Kalinsky. Kalinsky has photographed famous athletes, celebrities, world icons, and politicians such as John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and Bill Clinton. Through his job at MSG (which he has held since 1966) Kalinsky is able to meet many sports stars. One athlete whom he followed closely and photographed often is Muhammad Ali.
First, when you walk into the Neiman exhibit, in front of you are Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and robe. One thing you might not know about Ali is that he was 6’ 3”, so the robe is massive! It is also made of a much nicer material than you might have imagined.
Second, near the robe there is a drawing by both Ali and Neiman. Next to it is a photograph of them working on the same piece together. It is amazing to think that Ali, a boxer, also enjoyed art!
Third, in the Kalinsky exhibit there is a photograph of Ali receiving his Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Century Award. Next to it is a photograph of Ali with all of the other Sports Illustrated greatest athletes of the century: Pete Sampras, Jim Brown, Pelé, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Joe Montana, Carl Lewis, Bob Beamon, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Billie Jean King, Evander Holyfield, Chris Evert, John Elway, Bill Russell, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Monica Seles, Tiger Woods, and Wayne Gretzky.
There is tons more to see in these exhibits at the New-York Historical Society! Both exhibitions run until March 26. The N-YHS is located in Manhattan at 170 Central Park West (between 76th and 77th Streets and Central Park West).
Images (from top): Riley Neubauer; Courtesy LeRoy Neiman Foundation