The Notorious B.I.G. photo – the ‘Mona Lisa’ of Hip Hop – heads to auction

“THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE” showcases the original photo of The Notorious B.I.G., captured and selected for publication by photographer Barron Claiborne in 1997. Archived for 26 years, this piece is a cutout from the original contact sheet, making it the only one of its kind ever created. Released by the artist in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, it presents a rare opportunity for true fans of The Notorious B.I.G., music collectors, and art enthusiasts to acquire one of the crown jewels of Hip-Hop history.

In September of 2020, the plastic crown Notorious B.I.G. wore in the photo achieved nearly $600,000 at auction.

Originally syndicated by Corbis in 1997, this medium format contact sheet is sized at 6×7 centimeters and displays the film information along its borders. It is labeled on the front and signed by the artist on the back. Notably, during the labeling process, Corbis unintentionally marked the year as 1995, which adds a unique and special element to the piece.

The auction winner will receive the physical artwork and will also gain ownership of its digital counterpart on the blockchain, ensuring provenance. As an exceptional bonus, the auction includes a one-on-one video call with the artist to learn more about the historical moment when the portrait of Christopher Wallace, just three days before his passing, was taken.

“THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE” is the masterpiece of The King of New York (KONY) Collection which, along with five other selected works, are all directly available on Barron Claiborne’s website.

“’The King of New York’ photo has become one the most recognized images in hip hop history because it serves as a symbol of greatness and remains one of the most iconic representations of the genre’s proliferation into America’s visual culture,” Vikki Toback, author, “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop” said. “The photo is about legend. It’s about being the best. And it’s about the mythology created around our greatest heroes when they die young.“

The auction for “THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE” began on Wednesday, July 12. Bidding started at 50 Ethereum, estimated to be around $95K USD. Payments for bids can be made in US Dollars through Credit Card or in the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

Visit this link to participate in the auction.

About the Artist

Barron Claiborne is a New York based self-taught photographer and cinematographer, originally from Boston, who works primarily in 4×5 and 8×10 large format photography.

He is renowned for his distinctive style and contributions to American culture. In 1997, he made history when he created one of the most iconic images in Hip Hop – The Notorious B.I.G. as The King of New York (KONY) with a tilted crown. The use of the Crown for the photo shoot was symbolic, to portray Biggie as “a big noble King.”

Barron’s work has been published in numerous publications including; The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Paper and Interview magazines. He documented poverty in America for The New Yorker, traveling from Mississippi through Appalachia, to the Rust belt. His work has taken him all over the world, from portraying boy soldiers in Sierra Leone, Guru’s in India to capturing beauty in Paris.

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