First Online Exhibit Entitled “Ali and Neiman: A Friendship in Art”
Launched Today in Recognition of What Would Have Been LeRoy Neiman’s 100th Birthday
Digital Archives Will Expand Global Reach of Ali Center’s Collection
In Partnership with HistoryIT and Made Possible Through IMLS Grant
For the first time ever, the Muhammad Ali Center is able to open up its archival collection and offer online exhibits for the world to experience as a way to extend Muhammad Ali’s global reach. The launch of the Center’s new digital museum and archives was specifically planned to be introduced during the annual Ali Festival, and on what would have been the 100th birthday of LeRoy Neiman, a longtime friend of Muhammad Ali’s. “Ali and Neiman: A Friendship in Art” is the Ali Center’s first ever digital museum exhibit which opened today. “Ali and Neiman” will highlight artwork created by both men and will also feature candid photographs and notes written by Mr. Neiman. It is linked to the Muhammad Ali archival collection, made available to the public, and is accessible through the Ali Center’s website, at https://muhammadali.historyit.com/. While the digitization of the Ali Center’s archival items is an ongoing process, this new offering will roll out initially with items from its: Permanent Collection, Greatest of All Time Collection, and Oral History Archive. Eventually the digital archives will include items from other collections.
The digital museum and archives was launched in partnership with HistoryIT, which was responsible for creating the website and for the migration of some of the items, and was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a $50,000 grant.
“Because Muhammad meant so much to so many people around the world, it has been our dream to make available items in our collection to online audiences everywhere,” said Laura Douglas, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center. “Having HistoryIT as a partner in helping us achieve this goal will create an accessible, searchable, and meaningful experience for anyone interested in knowing more intimate details about Muhammad’s life and legacy. Because LeRoy Neiman was part of Muhammad’s legacy for decades, we are delighted to honor both of these greats through our first ever online exhibit. Our thanks go out to HistoryIT and the IMLS for their support, and the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation for donating the majority of the artwork to the Center.”
Artist LeRoy Neiman is known for his brilliantly colored, expressionist paintings and screen prints of athletes, musicians, and sporting events, including official posters for the Kentucky Derby, Ryder Cup, and the Ali Center’s grand opening. LeRoy and Muhammad met in 1962 while Ali was preparing for a match against Billy Daniels in Harlem, New York. The fight took place in Neiman’s neighborhood, so he quickly found his way into the press section, and eventually into Ali’s dressing room. This chance meeting in Harlem sparked a friendship that continued through the entirety of the two men’ lives. Ali and Neiman remained friends until LeRoy’s passing in 2012.
Kristen Gwinn-Becker, Founder and CEO of HistoryIT, said, “We are thrilled to partner with the Muhammad Ali Center and support their new digital museum on our Odyssey platform. Our mission is to save history. Digitally preserving and sharing Ali’s legacy ensure that his life, achievements and core principles reach an even broader audience. Perhaps most importantly, the Ali Center’s effort to digitally preserve their collections secures these lessons for future generations.”
Photo courtesy of Leroy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation.