Kanye West's High School Art Portfolio Featured on Antiques Roadshow — and It's Worth Thousands
Kanye West has always been a man of his art.
Original artwork created by the music mogul, 42, during his sophomore year attending Polaris High School in Chicago was appraised at $16,000 to $23,000 thanks to his cousin’s husband, who featured the pieces on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow.
“My husband is Kanye West’s first cousin,” the exhibitor told host Laura Woolley, who appraised a small portion of West’s extensive collection at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix in April 2019. “When Kanye’s mother passed away in 2007, my husband received them as part of the estate about a year after she passed.”
“So you brought in this collection of artwork that was all done by Kanye West. You brought with you actually quite a large portfolio,” Woolley said. “We selected just a few to show, but you have a great number of them. I think what really attracted me to these pieces is that a lot of people are probably not aware of how talented he is as an artist outside of his music career. I think these pieces demonstrate an extraordinary facility as an artist and I selected this grouping because it shows the different mediums he was working in.”
The Grammy-winner utilized graphite and gouache to create some of his original works, Woolley told the audience. He even practiced scratchboard technique in some of his featured pieces.
One particularly interesting item in the collection is West’s ad for his first known showing of work circa 1995, when he was just 17 years old. At the time, he was aiming to sell his art for as low as $10 each for three or $12 a piece. His color prints were priced at just a few dollars more at two for $25 or one for $15.
“This flyer is really interesting because it gives the full background of his entire artistic training up until that point,” Woolley said. “I have to say he has a very impressive resume having attended the Hyde Park Art Academy at age 4, the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago State University [and] Nanjing University in the People’s Republic of China.”
“He was then at the Polaris School, so by age 17 he’s already been studying at these extraordinary artistic institutions and my favorite part of this flyer is actually the very end,” she said. “It says that he, in the fall, will begin his studies to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and continue to pursue a career as a music producer as well. That’s kind of an aside so we all know what happened, obviously music kind of took over.”
When Woolley asked how the designer was able to attend such illustrious universities so young, his cousin-in-law explained that it was because of West’s late mom Donda, who really wanted the best for him.
“Because his mother was an English college professor, she traveled all around the world and he went everywhere with her,” he said. “I personally didn’t know that about him, so that also informs kind of where he’s coming from,” Woolley admitted.
“Right, he’s got a much more global view of art and culture,” West’s cousin-in-law added. “His mother pushed him to do anything that he wanted to do and made sure that it was available for him.”
Speaking more on the appraisal itself, Woolley explained exactly how much West’s celebrity status would factor into the pricing of his pieces.
“It’s an interesting thing when you look at art that is done by a celebrity because a good portion of the value of that artwork can actually depend on something I call the enduring legacy of the celebrity,” she explained. “We see the values kind of rise and fall along with the popularity of the celebrity.”
“I think despite the fact that some people might say that he’s a controversial figure with his opinions and his career, I don’t think anyone can deny the fact that he has extraordinary talent and I think that in time I would expect these to continue to appreciate,” Woolley said. “To have early pieces like this from someone who really will be an important cultural figure of our time I think is really fantastic.”
She priced his largest piece at about $6,000 to $8,000 and valued West’s remaining work at prices ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 each.