Press Release | New York, New York | March 13, 2023

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, Adam Pendleton and Venus Williams Co-Host Gala and Online Auction to Benefit Nina Simone’s Childhood Home

  • Author: The National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • The event brings together celebrated contemporary artists and three cultural organizations in a multipart fundraiser
  • Hosted at Pace Gallery’s 540 West 25th Street flagship in New York on May 20, the benefit gala will include a ticketed dinner
  • An auction of exceptional works donated by internationally renowned contemporary artists will be conducted online by Sotheby’s
  • Proceeds from the sale will support the Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

On May 20, 2023, Pace Gallery in New York will host a major benefit gala in support of the Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project spearheaded by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Through this project, the Action Fund aims to restore the birthplace of musical icon and civil rights activist Nina Simone in Tryon, North Carolina, which was jointly purchased by the artists Adam Pendleton, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, and Julie Mehretu in 2017 in order to safeguard the legacy of the home.

A benefit auction will be conducted online by Sotheby’s leading up to and following the gala, with key lots highlighted by Sotheby’s auctioneer Kimberly Pirtle during the in-person event at Pace. The marquee artworks in the sale, organized in partnership with the Action Fund, are co-curated by Pendleton and the tennis champion, entrepreneur, and arts patron Venus Williams. The hybrid event is co-presented by the Action Fund, Pace Gallery, and Pendleton alongside Gallagher, Johnson, and Mehretu.

This momentous fundraiser brings to fruition an unprecedented collaboration across the worlds of art, philanthropy, and historic preservation. Pendleton and the project partners have joined forces with Williams and convened high-profile creative luminaries, thought leaders, and experts in cultural preservation to protect the childhood home of Nina Simone, whose cultural legacy is of great personal significance to all the artists donating work.

Alongside artworks by Pendleton, Gallagher, Johnson, and Mehretu, the auction will feature work by Mary Weatherford, Stanley Whitney, Robert Longo, Cecily Brown, and other leading contemporary artists yet to be announced, in honor and recognition of Simone’s monumental contributions to the arts and social activism. Online bidding in the auction will be available to the public at 11 a.m. EDT beginning Friday, May 12 and closing Monday, May 22 at 3 p.m. EDT. All the artworks in the auction will be available to view in person—in addition to online—at Pace’s West 25th Street gallery in New York throughout the course of the sale, from May 12–20.

This multifaceted project highlights the vital work of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Established by the National Trust in 2017, the Action Fund is helmed by Executive Director Brent Leggs, who also serves as Senior Vice President of the National Trust. The Action Fund's mission is to make a lasting impact on American history by preserving sites of African American activism, achievement, and resilience. It is the largest ever preservation effort dedicated to African American historic sites.

In support of this watershed initiative, many of the participating artists will attend the in-person gala at Pace’s New York flagship on the evening of May 20. To inquire about purchasing tickets for the gala dinner, please contact

Register for updates at

To make an individual donation to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project, please visit

Adam Pendleton says:
“Nina Simone is one of the most important musical artists of the twentieth century. I’m inspired to be able to protect her legacy by preserving her childhood home. Her music, her vision, cannot be forgotten.”

Venus Williams says:
“I’m so excited to be a part of this expansive project centering on the life and legacy of Nina Simone, who has been a huge inspiration for so many. Each of the artists Adam and I have selected for the auction has a unique, powerful voice, and we’ve been moved by their generosity and enthusiasm for this important cause. It’s been a privilege to collaborate with Adam in curating the auction.”

Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Senior Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says:
“Nina Simone’s childhood home provides a lens into the contours of her life growing up in the Jim Crow South. Our partnership with the artists, Venus Williams, and Pace Gallery is a powerful demonstration of how art and preservation practice can join forces to permanently preserve Simone’s remarkable legacy. Together, we will secure the home’s future and inspire a new generation of diverse leaders who will memorialize the places where Black history happened.”

Marc Glimcher, CEO of Pace Gallery, says:
“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with this group of incredibly talented, influential artists to spotlight the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Nina Simone Childhood Home preservation project. The Action Fund does such crucial work in preserving sites of Black history, and we’re excited to have Brent, a leading architectural historian and preservationist, as a partner in this important initiative. At Pace, we’re passionate about our artists’ passions. When Adam came to us with his idea for this benefit, we jumped at the opportunity. In his paintings, drawings, and other works, Adam creates spaces of engagement, often using indexical or documentary processes, and this whole project speaks to the vast scope of that vision. The determination shown by Adam, Venus, Brent, and every artist participating in this fundraiser continues to inspire me and the gallery’s wider community.”

Charlie Stewart, CEO of Sotheby’s, says:
“It is a privilege to work alongside Pace Gallery, Venus Williams, and a remarkable group of accomplished artists to preserve and celebrate Nina Simone’s legacy. At Sotheby’s, we are committed to lending our expertise by hosting benefit auctions that ensure our communities, and the causes they champion, have the resources they need to succeed. We look forward to a thrilling auction and a series of events this spring that will showcase the transformative power of art and collective action.”

Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon in 1933, Simone nurtured an early love of music in her childhood home, a clapboard, three-room structure just 650 square feet in size. The National Trust designated it a national treasure in 2018, and the organization’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is working with the four artists who purchased the home—along with the Nina Simone Project, World Monuments Fund, and North Carolina African American Heritage Commission—to fully rehabilitate and activate the house as a means of sustaining the musician’s legacy in perpetuity.

The Action Fund is developing a rehabilitation plan that aligns with the home’s potential future use, identifies future ownership and stewardship models for the site, and creates additional protections to ensure that this symbol of Simone’s early life and legacy will endure for generations to come. Since fundraising for the Nina Simone house project began, the Action Fund has raised nearly $500,000. This upcoming auction will generate a multimillion dollar donation for the site’s ongoing preservation.

About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American resilience, activism, and achievement. Visit

About Pace Gallery
Pace is a leading international art gallery representing some of the most influential contemporary artists and estates from the past century, holding decades-long relationships with Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, Agnes Martin, Louise Nevelson, and Mark Rothko. Pace enjoys a unique U.S. heritage spanning East and West coasts through its early support of artists central to the Abstract Expressionist and Light and Space movements. Since its founding by Arne Glimcher in 1960, Pace has developed a distinguished legacy as an artist-first gallery that mounts seminal historical and contemporary exhibitions. Under the current leadership of CEO Marc Glimcher, Pace continues to support its artists and share their visionary work with audiences worldwide by remaining at the forefront of innovation. Today, Pace has nine locations worldwide, including a European foothold in London and Geneva; two galleries in New York; Los Angeles; Palm Beach; East Hampton; and Hong Kong and Seoul, as well as an office and viewing room in Beijing.

About Sotheby’s
Established in 1744, Sotheby’s is the world’s premier destination for art and luxury. Sotheby’s promotes access to and ownership of exceptional art and luxury objects through auctions and buy-now channels including private sales, ecommerce and retail. Our trusted global marketplace is supported by an industry-leading technology platform and a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 70 categories which include Contemporary Art, Modern and Impressionist Art, Old Masters, Chinese Works of Art, Jewelry, Watches, Wine and Spirits, and Design, as well as collectible cars and real estate. Sotheby’s believes in the transformative power of art and culture and is committed to making our industries more inclusive, sustainable, and collaborative.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. | @savingplaces

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