African art collection linked to controversial Harris County figure to be auctioned next week

Monday, March 25, 2024
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A massive collection of African art once at the center of a county controversy linked to Commissioner Rodney Ellis will be auctioned off next week.

Once housed for years at taxpayer expense, the collection has over a thousand pieces, including life-sized carvings and sculptures, framed art, and tapestries.

On Monday, ABC13 was given a preview.

The management company has announced that the collection will be auctioned off from two rooms in an office building in southwest Houston, where it's been housed in cramped quarters for over two years.

"That work needs to be seen. It needs to be appreciated. It needs to breathe. It needs to live," Lloyd Gite, owner of Gite Gallery, which specializes in African art, said.

Gite viewed the collection himself and hopes an institution, like a university or corporation will purchase it.

"I've made many, many trips to Africa. This collection is just so over-the-top in terms of beauty and fascination. It's an incredible collection," he said.

Questions were first raised in 2020 about why the collection was housed at taxpayers' expense at a Harris County Precinct 1 county facility.

In 2021, a grand jury declined to indict Commissioner Rodney Ellis over its unauthorized storage.

The next year, the owner of the collection, Sam M. Njunuri, lost an unrelated civil case. Facing almost $1 million in damages and fees, court records state a judge ordered the auction.

According to the public announcement, the auction will be at 10 a.m. at 6464 Savoy Drive, Houston, Texas 77036, and the collection will be sold as one lot.

While Commissioner Rodney Ellis' office declined to comment, Njunuri could not be reached.

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