It doesn’t sound quite right to still call it that, does it? In any case it is on display at the National Museum of African Art. At least two-thirds of the collection is lame and maybe a third or somewhat less is wonderful. Cosby for instance has excellent works by Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Minnie Evans, Henry Ossawa Tanner, (and here), Romare Bearden, some amazing quilts and textiles (try here too), and quality African ethnographic pieces. The works by lesser-known creators are mostly sentimental junk with lots of gloppy paint and hackneyed historical themes, or perhaps a maudlin portrait of some kind.
My hypothesis is simple: in any collecting area where price is a sufficient statistic for quality, Cosby did well by paying top dollar, or at least by letting himself be “mined” by his buyer agent, who probably had a financial incentive to pay top dollar. In any area where judgment was required, Cosby chose very poorly.
Here is one review of the show and the surrounding controversy. Here is WaPo coverage. What is the average moral quality of assemblers of art? How should we feel about the collection in the Louvre, the Prado, or for that matter art museums anywhere in Russia? Here is an article on how colleges and universities are responding to their involvement with Cosby.
The African Mosaic show at the African Museum is worth a visit as well. The Washington D.C. art exhibit scene is much worse than it was fifteen years ago, but right now the African Museum is the place to go.