New York: Nina Simone’s house comes to life at auction

A place to keep the memory of Nina Simone alive. In New York, artists put their works up for auction to make the birthplace of soul diva and civil rights activist a cultural site, with the support of Venus Williams.

The abode, a modest pillared house with front porch and wood-plank facades, is nestled on a hillside in the small township of Tryon, in a rural county of North Carolina, in the southeastern United States. It was on sale in 2017 when four artists, Julie Mehretu, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson and Adam Pendleton, bought it back for $95,000 so it wouldn’t disappear.

“Nina Simone fought for an inclusive and diverse America,” says Adam Pendleton. Allowing “people to see and visit” his birthplace, “is a way of keeping his legacy, his music, alive for future generations”, he adds, inside the Pace gallery in New York, where the works for sale were on display this week.

Become a permanent host site for cultural events

“Over the past five years, we have raised $500,000,” used in part for initial consolidation and painting work, adds Brent Leggs, director of a specific program for African-American heritage within the National Trust for Historic Preservationwho works with artists.

But the 60 m2 house still needs funding to become a permanent site, open to visits and cultural events.

To give a boost, the artists have brought together eleven works, including paintings by Cecily Brown or Sarah Sze, the sale of which will fuel the project.

The auctions, organized by Pace and Sotheby’s, have been taking place on the Internet since May 12 and until Monday. Brent Leggs hopes to make $2 million from it, notably thanks to a gala on Saturday evening in New York, supported by tennis champion Venus Williams.

“It is the legacy of Nina Simone that has allowed people like me to be visible”, ures in a video the first black player to become world number one.

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Nina Simone, some of whose songs make up the playlists of the Black Lives Matter movement, had a complex, often difficult relationship with the United States, where she was born in 1933, during racial segregation.

In Tryon’s three-room house, where she spent her early years with her parents and siblings, little Eunice Waymon, her real name, was immersed in music, starting the piano at three, and excelling under the lessons from “Miss Mazzie”, an English teacher who ped on her pion for Johann Sebastian Bach.

But her dream of becoming a clical concert performer is shattered at the front door of the Philadelphia Conservatory, a failure that she will attribute all her life to racism. His career in the 1960s married the struggle for the civil rights of African Americans, sometimes with radical speech, sometimes in song, with “Mississippi Goddam”, a response to the murderous fire of a church in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan (1963), or with the poignant “Why? (The king of love is dead)”, which she performs three days after the ination of Martin Luther King (1968).

She had eventually left the United States and lived her last years in the south of France, where she died in 2003.

According to Brent Leggs, Tryon’s house could be open to the public as soon as 2024. “Our country is beginning to understand the need to preserve all of our history, and recognize and celebrate the diversity of our country,” he adds. . “An exciting time for historic protection,” he said.

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