Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This print re-creates a document of the brutal history of slavery in the United States: an advertisement for the sale of 250 enslaved African men, women, and children. The artist provocatively inserts the silhouettes of contem-porary cultural icons Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jackson. Indicting the industries that have attained wealth from the labor—and spectacle—of Black athletes and performers while also recognizing the agency and accom-plishments of such individuals, this work asks if and how American society values Black lives and achievements.

A Surprising Material

This fibrous sheet of paper is made from elephant dung, an eco-friendly alternative to wood pulp. Plant fibers (like the blade of grass visible at center) can be extracted from animal waste to produce a pulp that is molded into sheets of paper, sometimes with added mate-rials—note the flecks of blue cotton. In addition to helping combat deforestation and elephant poaching, the dung paper industry sustains communities in various parts of Africa and Asia.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2018.33.60
People
Hank Willis Thomas, American (Plainfield, NJ born 1976)
Title
To be sold
Classification
Prints
Work Type
print
Date
2009
Culture
American
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/361212
Location
Level 3, Room 3500, Special Exhibitions Gallery
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Laser-cut relief print on handmade paper
Technique
Relief
Dimensions
irregular: 61 × 43.2 cm (24 × 17 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r., in graphite: Hank Willis Thomas '09
Provenance
Hank Willis Thomas, created 2009; [Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia, PA], sold; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2018.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Edition
18/30
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund
Copyright
© Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Accession Year
2018
Object Number
2018.33.60
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Exhibition History

32Q: 2240 18th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/19/2018 - 06/19/2019

Prints from the Brandywine Workshop and Archives: Creative Communities, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/04/2022 - 07/31/2022

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu