THE 2016 AUCTION SEASON is gearing up in early February when the major houses are holding their first modern and contemporary art sales of the year in London. Although art by African American and African diasporic artists represents a nominal share of the lots offered by Sotheby’s, Phillips, and Christie’s (if they are included at all), as a wider base of U.S. and international collectors begins to buy work by black artists, more inventory will eventually appear at auction. Sales of work by living African American artists at public auctions give a sense of market values and pricing. Over the past few years, a number of black artists have seen record sales at auction, north of $1 million. The following represents the top 10 most expensive living artists, current rankings in terms of auction sales:


david hammons -untitled 2000
DAVID HAMMONS, “Untitled,” 2000 (crystal, brass, frosted glass, light fixtures, hardware and steel; unique from a series of 3). | Estimate $5,000,000-$7,000,000. Sold for $8,005,000 (including fees).

1. David Hammons, “Untitled,” 2000
Sold for $8,005,000 (including fees) on Nov. 11, 2013 at Phillips New York

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MARK BRADFORD, “Constitution IV,” 2013 (mixed-media on canvas). | Estimate $3,095,830-$4,643,745. Sold for $5,848,796 (including fees).

2. Mark Bradford, “Constitution IV,” 2013
Sold for $5,848,796 (including fees) on Oct. 14, 2015 at Phillips London

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Julie Mehretu - Retopistics - A Renegade Excavation
JULIE MEHRETU, “Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation,” 2001 (ink and acrylic on canvas). | Estimate $1,400,000-$1,800,000. Sold for $4,603,750 (including fees).

3. Julie Mehretu, “Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation,” 2001
Sold for $4,603,750 (including fees) on May 15, 2013 at Christie’s New York

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chris-ofili-holy virgin mary
CHRIS OFILI, “Holy Virgin Mary,” 1996 (acrylic, oil, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on linen). | Estimate $2,196,600 – $2,824,200. Sold for $4,522,643 (including fees).

4. Chris Ofili, “The Holy Virgin Mary,” 1996
Sold for $4,522,643 (including fees) on June 30, 2015 at Christie’s London

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i was somebody - detail
GLENN LIGON, Detail of “Untitled (I Was Somebody),” 1990, 2003 (oilstick, graphite and gesso on panel) | Estimate $1 million – $1.5 million. Sold for $3,973,000 (including fees).

5.Glenn Ligon, “Untitled (I Was Somebody),” 1990/2003
Sold for $3,973,000 (including fees) on Nov. 11, 2014 at Sotheby’s New York

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Hurvin Anderson - Afrosheen
HURVIN ANDERSON, “Afrosheen,” 2009 (oil on canvas). | Estimate $510,900 – $681,200. Sold for $2,246,481 (including fees),

6. Hurvin Anderson, “Afrosheen,” 2009
Sold for $2,246,481 (including fees) on July 1, 2014 at Christie’s London

msrtin puryear - untitled - 1989
MARTIN PURYEAR, “Untitled,” 1989 (red cedar and pine ). | Estimate $600,000-$800,000. Sold for $1,805,000 (including fees).

7. Martin Puryear, “Untitled,” 1989
Sold for $1,805,000 (including fees) on May 13, 2014 at Christie’s New York

El Anatsui - Paths to the Okro Farm
EL ANATSUI, “Paths to the Okro Farm,” 2006 (aluminum and copper wire). | Estimate $700,000-$1 million. Sold for $1,445,000 (including fees).

8. El Anatsui, “Paths to the Okro Farm,” 2006
Sold for $1,445,000 (including fees) on May 15, 2014 at Sotheby’s New York

kerry james marshall - vignette
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Vignette,” 2003 (acrylic on fiberglass in artist’s wood frame). Estimate $400,000 – $600,000. Sold for $1,025,000 (including fees).

9. Kerry James Marshall, “Vignette,” 2003
Sold for $1,025,000 (including fees) on Nov. 13, 2014 at Christies’s New York

READ MORE about “Vignette” on Culture Type


Detail Delux by Ellen Gallagher
ELLEN GALLAGHER, Detail of “Deluxe,” 2004-2005 (portfolio of 60 printed objects with aquatint, dry-point, photogravure, spit-bite, lithography, silkscreen, embossing, tattoo machine engraving, laser-cutting, collage, crystals, cut paper, enamel, glitter, gold leaf, gouache, graphite, oil, plasticine, polymer medium, pomade, toy eyeballs, watercolor and velvet on paper; number 16 from an edition of 20 unique variations). | Estimate $250,000-$350,000. Sold for $987,750 (including fees).

10. Ellen Gallagher, “Deluxe,” 2004-2005
Sold for $987,750 (including fees) at Christie’s New York on May 16, 2013 CT

This list is based on artist rankings, not individual works sold. For example, sales of multiple works by an artist may cumulatively add up to a higher sum than the price of an artist ranked above them, but each artist appears once based on their most expensive work sold at auction. Information sourced from Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, and Iris Index.


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