Published Aug 25, 2020One of the most enduring images of the Notorious B.I.G. was captured during a 1997 photoshoot three days before his death, for which photographer Barron Claiborne made the artist the "King of New York" by placing a titled crown upon his head. Now, the rap icon's headgear is set to go up for auction.
Biggie's crown leads a crop of items set to hit the block as part of the first-ever Sotheby's auction dedicated to hip-hop, alongside high school love letters from his West Coast contemporary 2Pac.
The plastic crown is being auctioned by Claiborne, who has kept it since the 1997 "King of New York" photoshoot. The lot will also include three prints of the iconic photograph, the 10th anniversary "King of New York" photograph, and the contact sheet from the shoot.
The crown's interior features the signatures of both Claiborne and the artist, along with the inscription, "Crown from Biggie KONY Shot NYC 3-6-97." The lot is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000 USD.
"After 23 years in my possession, I'm very excited to share this iconic piece of Hip Hop history with the public," Claiborne writes in a statement. "With the tragic events that unfolded just days after the photoshoot, this image of a crowned Notorious B.I.G. became much more than a portrait — the image transformed Biggie Smalls into an aristocratic or saint like figure, forever immortalized as not only the King of New York, but a king of hip-hop music and one of the greatest artists of all time."
Claiborne had been hired by Rap Pages magazine to snap Biggie for their cover and sought to portray the artist as the King of New York on his throne. Two differently sized crowns were brought the shoot, and the one now up for auction required the interior foam padding to be removed in order to have it fit Biggie's head.
Taking place in New York on September 15, the auction includes "unique artifacts, contemporary art, one of a kind experiences, photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and newly designed jewelry and luxury items, rare ephemera including flyers and posters, important publications, and more."
The Notorious B.I.G. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.