Art collection honors Muhammad Ali

By Eric Krol

Remember the “Rumble in the Jungle” or the “Thrilla in Manila”? NIU students can relive those memorable fights through an art collection dedicated to the life of Muhammad Ali.

Claude Julian, an NIU alumnus, returned Sunday to unveil his 13-painting tribute entitled “The Greatest Show on Earth: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali,” at Grant Towers North Art Gallery.

The boxing great’s second wife, Khalilah Ali-Camacho, also attended the opening. Julian said Camacho was pleased with the work and “it made her feel like she was (near) the ring again.” Ali was busy in Los Angeles but still might see the collection while it is at NIU, he said.

Julian, who calls himself a celebrity artist, said he was approached by Camacho last summer to do one piece on Ali, who turned 50 this year. “This spearheaded the idea of an entire tribute to the man,” Julian said.

Julian said he wanted to open the collection at NIU because it is where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the fine arts. He also said the works are valued at $100,000.

It took Julian over seven months to complete the project. He said he began by researching Ali’s career at the Smithsonian Institute in the nation’s capital and the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.

The actual paintings are done in “aggressive progressive” style. Julian drew the various fight scenes and highlighted the background in bright marker. “Markers highlight the work in colors which paints cannot,” he added.

Although there are no set hours to view the exhibit, Julian said arrangements can be made with the Grant North front desk. The display will stay at NIU until Feb. 29, when it will move to Northwestern University and eventually to New York and Europe.

Julian said his next project will be to commemorate the career of Magic Johnson. Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson are also on his list, he added.

After graduating in 1983, Julian has had a lengthy modeling career and has landed roles in two movies.