Kanye West’s ego might be even bigger these days, thanks to a rave review of his high school artwork from an appraiser on PBS’s long-running Antiques Roadshow, who valued a quintet of works on paper at an impressive $16,000 to $23,000.
“What really attracted me to these pieces was the fact that a lot of people are probably not aware of how talented he is an artist outside his music career,” said appraiser Laura Woolley, of the appraisal service Collector’s Lab in Los Angeles. “These pieces demonstrate an extraordinary facility as an artist.”
The works include a surreal drawing of a multi-eyed, horned figure in chains; two verdant landscapes; and two portraits, all done in graphite, gouache, and scratchboard. They wound up on the air courtesy of West’s first cousin-in-law, whose husband inherited the collection as part of the estate of West’s mother, who died in 2007.
The works featured on the episode represent just a small part of the inherited collection—meaning that West’s relations could be in for quite a substantial payday, should they sell the whole lot.
Kanye has many ties to art—though this is perhaps the earliest work of his own that’s ever been made public. He’s collaborated with Takashi Murakami for multiple album covers; donated $10 million to James Turrell’s Roden Crater; and even debuted a waxworks-style installation at LA’s Blum & Poe gallery in 2016. He also has shown off some of his own handiwork on Instagram.
“It’s an interesting thing when you look at the art that’s done by a celebrity… the values rise and fall along with the popularity of the celebrity,” said Woolley.
Despite West’s penchant for courting controversy, she believes the rapper will have an enduring legacy, and that the value of his artwork will only increase over time. “To have early pieces like this from someone who really will be an important cultural figure of our time is really fantastic,” Woolley added.
West’s family had also held onto a flyer advertising his first art show, held in 1995, when West was just 17, and studying at the Polaris Charter Academy in Chicago. It recounts West’s art studies from the age of four, at institutions including Art Institute of Chicago.
“I have to say he has a very impressive resume,” noted Woolley. The short bio also detailed West’s plans to study art in college while pursuing a career as a music producer: “We all know what happened; obviously music kind of took over.”