WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bill Cosby’s African art collection would not have been shown at a Smithsonian museum in Washington if sexual abuse allegations against the comedian had been known, the museum’s director said.
Johnnetta Cole, director of Washington’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, said she regretted not being more transparent about a $716,000 donation Cosby gave to the museum to fund the exhibit. The show opened in November and includes about 60 pieces from Cosby’s personal collection.
Cole wrote in the online magazine the Root on Wednesday that she was unaware of the sexual abuse allegations at the time of the donation.
“Had I known, I would not have moved forward with this particular exhibition,” she said.
Cole said she was “devastated” about the allegations against the Cosby but his pieces would remain on exhibit. The show is about the art, not the man, and will remain open, she wrote.
The pieces contributed by Cosby include paintings by former slaves, various commissioned works, and images of the comedian.
The museum posted a sign last month reminding visitors that the exhibit is about the artists and not a tribute to Cosby.
Cosby has been ordered to give a deposition in a lawsuit brought by a woman accusing him of plying her with alcohol and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles when she was 15 years old.
The alleged victim is one of more than 40 women who have come forward in the past year to say that they were raped or molested by Cosby after he gave them alcohol or drugs in incidents dating back decades.
Reporting by John Clarke; Editing by Ian Simpson and Bill Trott