Lot 187: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “Yocks,” 1975 (acrylic on canvas). | Estimate $300,000-$400,000. Sold for $942,500 (including fees)


WEARING A GREEN LEATHER COAT with wide, white fur lapels, the “Boston-based brother” who appears in a triple portrait by Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) was among the subjects for which the artist “felt one pose was not enough.” Hendricks was sufficiently inspired by his subject that he put him in a second painting. Posing with another black male figure in a 1975 work titled “Yocks,” his commanding presence and style include a smile enhanced by a gold tooth, platform shoes, and a green leather hat to match the coat.

Yesterday, “Yocks” sold for $942,500 (including fee) at Sotheby’s New York, a record for the artist, which only held for a few moments. The next lot, “The Way You Look Tonight / Diagonal Graciousness” (1981), another portrait by Hendricks, yielded three times its estimate, narrowly surpassing “Yocks” and setting a new artist record at $960,500 (including fees).

“The Way You Look Tonight / Diagonal Graciousness” (1981), another portrait by Hendricks, yielded three times its estimate, narrowly surpassing “Yocks” and setting a new artist record at $960,500 (including fees).

In an essay about the paintings, Sotheby’s describes the figure in “The Way You Look Tonight…” as epitomizing “the cool factor which defines Hendricks’ entire oeuvre. Dressed in head-to-toe black and set against a white and white gold leaf background (much like a Renaissance icon), it is the figure’s accents such as his rings, bright pink bubblegum and red cardinal that Hendricks focuses on as the defining aspects of the character.”

The previous high mark for Hendricks was $365,000 (including fees) achieved by paintings sold at Swann Auction Galleries in 2015 (“Steve,” 1976 and “Tuff Tony” 1978).


1976: Barkley L. Hendricks in his State Street Studio in New London, Conn., with “Sweet Thang,” (left) and “Northern Lights” (right). | From “Birth of the Cool,” p. 132, Courtesy the artist


ONE MONTH AFTER HENDRICKS DIED of a cerebral hemorrhage (April 18, 2017), three paintings by the artist were offered for sale at the May 19 Contemporary Art Day Auction at Sotheby’s. All three came from “a prominent East Coast collection,” according to the lot descriptions.

Information included in the Sotheby’s listings also notes that the three works have been requested by the Hendricks Estate and Trevor Schoonmaker for an exhibition at Prospect 4, the upcoming New Orleans triennial that opens Nov. 18, 2017. Schoonmaker, chief curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is the artistic director of Prospect.

The third painting is a 1977 self-portrait in two parts. Hendricks captured himself from the shoulders up against a metallic silver ground, wearing a leather cap with a toothpick hanging from his mouth. His large sunglasses show a reflection of the arched windows in his studio.

Hendricks has said he adapted titles for his self-portraits from quotes from various women he has known. Counterintuitively titled “Innocence & Friend,” this depiction of the artist is paired with isolated images of fruit. The symbolism is likely sexual/sensual in nature. The banana and two oranges, their navels perfectly centered and facing the viewer, are undoubtedly a cheeky reference to a phallic symbol and breasts.


Lot 189: BARKLEY HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Innocence & Friend,” 1977 (oil and aluminum leaf on canvas, in two parts). | Estimate $100,000-$150,000. Sold for $396,500 (including fees)


A PHOTOGRAPHER AND PAINTER, Hendricks primarily focused on figuration, but also depicted landscapes. “Dippy’s Delight,” an example from his Basketball Series was sold at Sotheby’s earlier this year. He was most recognized, however, for his life-size realist portraits painted in the 1970s. Often created using a limited color palette, his subjects’ style of dress and cool poses convey a certain attitude and hipness.

“Birth of the Cool,” the first career survey of Hendricks, was organized by Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum in 2008. The exhibition brought renewed attention to the artist’s practice and traveled through 2010 to the Studio Museum in Harlem, Santa Monica Museum of Art (now ICA Los Angeles), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

In the catalog for “Birth of the Cool,” Hendricks provides insights and backstories about his paintings and the origins of their titles.

“Northern Lights” features the dynamic figure in the flamboyant green leather coat in three different poses. “There was the shine of the green leather coat and the “bling” of the gold teeth that inspired the title for the painting of the Boston-based brother. He was also in a double portrait I called ‘Yocks.’ Yock was the name given to a dude who knew how to ‘rag.’ [Duke University Art Historian] Rick Powell would call them dandies,” Hendricks writes.

“…Someone once referred to the figure I did in the ‘Northern Lights’ painting as a pimp. It was his big hat and large fur-collared coat that was behind the assessment. I said I once saw Ronald Reagan in the same large fur-collared coat. Did that make him a pimp? You’ll have to answer that one. Sometimes clothes do make the man. Hail to the chief.” CT


READ MORE about legislative efforts to win artist resale rights/royalties


The catalog for “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” is an amazing documentation of the exhibition and the artist’s practice. It features essay contributions from Trevor Schoonmaker, who organized the exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Art historian Richard Powell of Duke University; and Franklin Sirmans, now director of Perez Art Museum Miami; and an interview with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. The volume also contains informative acknowledgements by Hendricks and a chronology that includes personal and pithy comments from the artist about his milestones and experiences over the years.


Lot 188: BARKLEY HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “The Way You Look Tonight / Diagonal Graciousness,” 1981 (oil, acrylic and white gold leaf on linen). Estimate $200,000-$300,000. Sold for $960,500 (including fees). RECORD


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