Ever since the sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night of “Past Times,” a monumental painting by Kerry James Marshall with a narrative centered on black experiences, many people have been speculating about which collector or museum might have placed the winning $21.1 million bid. The sale was an auction high for Mr. Marshall, and it was widely reported to be the most ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.
“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,” said Mr. Shainman, who has represented Mr. Marshall since his first show at the gallery in 1993.
The dealer said Mr. Combs was introduced to the painter’s work by a friend and sometime musical collaborator, the hip-hop recording artist and record producer Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is also an avid art collector with his wife, Alicia Keys. Mr. Combs viewed the painting at Sotheby’s before the sale.
Platinum-selling rapper The Game donated half a million dollars to provide water to Flint, Michigan. On Tuesday, the Compton rapper posted a picture to his Instagram account of a wire transfer from his charity, the Robin Hood Project, to Avita for half a million bucks. Avita, an artesian alkaline water company, is matching The Game’s $500,000 for a grand total of $1,000,000.
It’s the biggest public celebrity donation so far to Flint, which is in the throes of a federal emergency after it came to light that its water supply contained high levels of lead, poisoning its people. Experts estimate that roughly 8,000 to 9,000 children under the age of six may have suffered permanent brain damage after being exposed to the tainted water. And that’s just the kids.
“It’s obviously a very big deal and a tragedy in Flint, and I saw people donating small amounts, and I just thought I’d go above and beyond that,” says The Game. “So I donated the funds from the first 11 shows of my European tour. Avita matched it and they’ll be one million bottles of water given out—33,000 bottles of water at a time because of trucking and shipping it in and out. It’s not easy shipping it out because of the snowstorms, and trucks being backed up. But we’ll get it there, however long it takes.”
“What Meek did was very generous, and that’s great. But what I want celebrities to do is to stop saying, ‘I pledge water.’ There are people who get up every morning and say they pledge allegiance to the flag, but don’t really honor it. Talk is cheap,” The Game said. “So I posted a picture of my wire transfer and I’ll post pictures of the water going into Flint every day until it’s done—not to brag, but to speak to the people who actually want to fix the problem.”
Unlike some of these other celebrities, The Game has a personal connection to the embattled City of Flint. “My sister lives in Flint with my nieces and nephews and her husband, and so it directly affected me,” he says. “I’ve got friends who are still stuck there, too. I’ve been on tour in Europe for weeks and weeks, and I wanted to do something. I try to do the best I can from wherever I am.”
Through his Robin Hood Project, The Game has donated millions to the less fortunate. “You know, the thing is man, when I first became a rapper I always said to myself that any amount of money that I acquire past getting me an apartment, a decent car, and the Internet I’d pay it forward,” says The Game.
“Once I accumulated a large amount of finances, I just started giving back randomly. At first I would do it to different places because I didn’t have a charity, then one day I came up with the Robin Hood Project because Robin Hood was my favorite cartoon back in the day—he’d rob from the rich and give to the poor. So I started giving money out of my own pockets. It wasn’t a tax write-off thing. It’s about helping your fellow people and doing the right thing, man.”
The spark of rebellion, the kind that makes a man stand up and fight, has almost been extinguished in Walter Lee Younger. As portrayed by Denzel Washington in Kenny Leon’s disarmingly relaxed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — which opened on Thursday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theater — Walter appears worn down, worn out and about ready to crawl into bed for good. Frankly, he looks a whole lot older than you probably remember him.
That’s partly because, at 59, Mr. Washington, the much laureled movie star, is about a quarter of a century older than the character he is playing, at least as written. (This production bumps Walter’s age up to 40 from 35.) But it’s also because, as this production of Raisin makes clearer than any I’ve seen before, Walter inhabits a world that ages men like him fast.
Listen to how his mama, Lena (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), describes her late husband’s existence: “I seen him, night after night, come in, and look at that rug, and then look at me, the red showing in his eyes, the veins moving in his head. I seen him grow thin and old before he was 40, working and working like somebody’s horse.”
In this engrossingly acted version of Hansberry’s epochal 1959 portrait of an African-American family, Walter is all too clearly his father’s son. Lena may tell him, shaking her head, that he is “something new, boy.” But you know that her great fear is that he is not. Small wonder she shows such smothering protectiveness to Walter’s 11-year-old son, Travis (Bryce Clyde Jenkins).
A claustrophobic fatigue pervades the cramped, South Side Chicago apartment in which A Raisin in the Sun is set. And despite its often easygoing tone, a happy ending feels far from guaranteed. As designed by Mark Thompson, the Youngers’ living room cum kitchen is a narrow corridor that keeps its three generations of inhabitants in close, erosive proximity.
The production begins with a searing vision of bone-weariness. Ruth Younger (Sophie Okonedo), Walter’s wife, stands frozen center stage in a bathrobe, amid sallow morning light. Her face is harrowed, and her arms are braced against the kitchen counter in what is almost a crucifix position. She is trying to find the strength to get through another day.
Mr. Leon relaxes that initial tautness for the scene that follows, in which the Youngers — who also include Walter’s sister, Beneatha (a first-rate Anika Noni Rose), a pre-med student — go through their usual morning rituals. And the play as a whole has a genial, conversational quality; it always holds you, but without trying to shake you.
Still, that opening scene strikes a note that will resonate. Exhaustion is pulling at the Youngers like a dangerous force of gravity. As Hansberry puts it in her stage directions, “Weariness has, in fact, won in this room.”
Sean Combs’ Revolt TV network has signed a national carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable ahead of its fall launch. Revolt is one of four African-American-owned independent networks (and 10 overall) that Comcast pledged to would distribute, a condition for FCC approval of its merger with NBC Universal.
Revolt has been designed as a multimedia platform with an emphasis on music programming, live content and social media, and distribution in urban markets has been said to be key. “This is a landmark distribution deal that demonstrates Time Warner Cable’s commitment to bringing a platform for music artists and fans to their subscribers,” said Combs, Revolt’s founder and chairman. “It positions Revolt to come out of the gate strong, and we look forward to igniting the passion of initial audiences across the U.S.”
With Time Warner and Comcast, Revolt is currently projecting to launch in 25 million homes. Discussions with other major distributors are ongoing. MTV, Warner Bros. Records and Live Nation veteran Andy Schuon leads Revolt with Combs.