Former National Youth Poet Laureate and Harvard graduate Amanda Gorman impressed the whole world on Jan. 20 when she read “The Hill We Climb,” a poem she wrote especially for the inauguration of President Biden.
One week later, her alma mater was gifted with a portrait of the poet, a vibrant acrylic painting by Ghanaian artist Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne.
The portrait, which depicts Gorman speaking at the inauguration, was donated to Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research by Amar Singh, a Harvard alum as well as a private London-based art collector known for supporting women artists. The final price was around 8,000 pounds (or about $9,692). Independent curator Destinee Ross-Sutton helped arrange the sale.
Mayne, who is based in Berlin, created the painting in just five days. He originally had no intention of selling it, he explained Friday via Zoom. But a day after posting the work to his Instagram page, he woke up to an offer from Singh.
“This work must be in an institution,” Singh said in a statement. “It is a celebration of women, a celebration of Black women, a celebration of hope.”
For Mayne, having the work displayed at Harvard is an unexpected honor. He said he never imagined that someone would love the painting so much they would “donate it to such a great institution.”
The speed in which the painting was acquired rivals Gorman’s overnight stardom. In the last week, it was announced that the 22-year-old poet will perform at the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. She also signed with IMG Models for fashion and beauty editorial opportunities. Two of Gorman’s books, a poetry collection called “The Hill We Climb” and a picture book called “Change Sings,” will be published later this year.
On the day of the inauguration, Mayne remembered being glued to the couch, entranced by Gorman’s words, the movement of her hands, and her smile as she spoke of unity in times that feel utterly divided.
“This beautiful poet inspired so many people,” Mayne said. “How could I not use my pen to work out how I was feeling?”
Natachi Onwuamaegbu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.