THE LATEST SALE of African-American Fine Art at Swann Auction Galleries resulted in auction records for several living women artists, including Simone Leigh, Emma Amos and Howardena Pindell. In addition, works by Sonya Clark and Allison Janae Hamilton appeared at auction for the first time and established benchmarks well above their estimates.


Lot 171: SIMONE LEIGH (1967- ), “Untitled,” 2006 (salt fired stoneware, approximately 625 mm high / 25 inches high). | Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $93,750 including fees (Hammer price $75,000) RECORD

 

The April 4 sale featured 175 lots—historic, modern, and contemporary works dating from 1871 to 2015. Prices ranged from $813 for a 1960 woodcut print by Calvin Burnett to $389,000 (prices include fees) for “Block Island,” a 1973 painting by Norman Lewis that topped the sale.

Following the Lewis painting, works by Charles White ($221,000), Faith Ringgold ($221,000), Romare Bearden ($185,000), and John Biggers ($149,000), accounted for the other top five lots.

    TOP 10 LOTS (fees included)

    Lot 105: Norman Lewis, “Block Island” (1973-75). | $389,000
    Lot 35: Charles White, “Caliban” (circa 1950). | $221,000
    Lot 134: Faith Ringgold, “Sleeping: Lover’s Quilt #2” (1986). | $221,000
    Lot 87: Romare Bearden, “Early Morning” (1968-69). | $185,000
    Lot 156: John Biggers, “Death and Resurrection” (1996). | $149,000
    Lot 163: Emma Amos, “Let Me Off Uptown” (1999-2000) | $125,000 RECORD
    Lot 24: William H. Johnson, “Jitterbugs V” (circa 1941-42). | $118,750 SAME AS STANDING RECORD
    Lot 102: Elizabeth Catlett, “Untitled (Civil Rights Protest)” (1974). | $118,750
    Lot 119: Frank Bowling, “In M. of M.W. II” (1980). | $118,750
    Lot 112: Kermit Oliver, “Dusk” (1972). | $112,500 RECORD

SINCE 2007, Swann has conducted auctions dedicated to African American art. Early on, nearly all of the artworks were produced in the 19th and 20th centuries. Swann stalwarts include Bearden, White, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, and Elizabeth Catlett, whose work graced the cover of the catalog. Catlett’s “Untitled (Civil Rights Protest)” is the cover lot. The 1974 mixed-media drawing is a rare work for the artist who concentrated on sculpture and printmaking.

The April 4 auction featured a diversity of works in terms of price, medium, and date created (spanning nearly 150 years). In recent years, more contemporary works have appeared and this trend was reflected in the sale. The selection of works by women artists both living and dead was also particularly significant.

One of the marquis lots was an untitled sculpture by Brooklyn-based Leigh made in 2006. Blending contemporary and primitive aesthetics, the untitled ceramic vessel references the black female body. The work sold above the estimate ($93,750) and set an artist record for Leigh, the winner of the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize. Her Hugo Boss Prize exhibition opens at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on April 19 and she is participating in the 2019 Whitney Biennial next month.

After being installed on the High Line last week, “Brick House” will be unveiled officially and accessible to the public in early June. Leigh’s massive sculpture is the public park’s inaugural Plinth commission.

Another record setter, “Let Me Off Uptown” (1999-2000) by Amos sold for nearly twice the estimate ($125,000). Pindell’s “Untitled #1,” a mixed-media collage in a free-form shape accented with nails around the perimeter, also sold above the estimate ($47,500) and set an artist record. “Dusk,” a 1972 painting by Kermit Oliver sold for $112,500, twice the estimate ($40,000-$60,000), establishing a new high mark for the artist.

    ARTIST RECORDS (fees included)

    Lot 163: Emma Amos, “Let Me Off Uptown” (1999-2000). | $125,000
    Lot 24: William H. Johnson, “Jitterbugs V” (circa 1941-42). | $118,750 SAME AS STANDING RECORD
    Lot 112: Kermit Oliver, “Dusk” (1972). | $112,500
    Lot 171: Simone Leigh, “Untitled” (2006). | $93,750
    Lot 5: Augusta Savage, “Gamin” (circa 1929). | $68,750 SAME AS STANDING RECORD
    Lot 118: Howardena Pindell, “Untitled #1” (1980-81). | $47,500 RECORD
    Lot 164: Mary Lovelace O’Neal, “Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did” (1995). | $40,000 AUCTION DEBUT
    Lot 32: Walter Sanford, “Study in Black & White” (1949-50). | $28,750
    Lot 54: Charles McGee, “Untitled (Table Top Still Life)” (1957). | $25,000
    Lot 146: Freddy Styles, “Untitled #2 (Working Roots Series)” (1990). | $20,000
    Lot 95: Peter Bradley, “Ramsey” (1973). | $11,250
    Lot 94: Robert James Reed Jr., “Plum Nellie, Gray Day” (1972). | $9,375
    Lot 172: Sonya Clark, “Albers #1 ($9,100). | $9,100 AUCTION DEBUT
    Lot 174: “The Traveler III” (2014). | $8,125 AUCTION DEBUT
    Lot 31: Victor Seach, “Jazz Singer” (1948). | $5,750
    Lot 175: Khalik Allah, “60” (2015). | $2,750 AUCTION DEBUT


Lot 118: HOWARDENA PINDELL (1943- ), “Untitled #1,” 1980-81 (mixed media on paper collage with nails, glitter, thread and a wolf plastic figurine, approximately 273 x 260 mm / 10 3/4 x 10 1/4 inches). | Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Sold for $47,500 including fees (Hammer price $38,000) RECORD

 

FOUR ARTISTS, ALL LIVING, made their auction debutsMary Lovelace O’Neal, a painter and printer; photographer Khalik Allah; Clark, a fiber artist; and Hamilton, who is a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

O’Neal was featured in “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” Poignantly titled, “Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did” (1995) by O’Neal was estimated at $40,000-$60,000 and sold for $40,000. Swann’s lot description states, “We believe this impressive, expressive painting is the first significant work of this contemporary painter, printmaker and art educator to come to auction.”

The auction house also commented on the names O’Neal chooses for her work, noting: “Her provocative titles announce her interests extend beyond formal concern—a 1993 lithograph is entitled ‘Racism is like Rain, Either It’s Raining or It’s Gathering Somewhere.'”

Works by Catlett (the cover lot), Robert S. Duncanson (an 1871 painting called “On the Banks of the Doune”), and Harlem photographer James Van Der Zee (an 18-photograph portfolio) were among those purchased by institutions.

Also on the institutional front, several artists included in the sale are the focus of major solo museum exhibitions. “Charles White: A Retrospective” opened recently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the last stop for the critically recognized, landmark show. Six works by White were included in the Swann auction. The first major retrospective of Frank Bowling opens May 31 at Tate Britain.

Clark’s work is being showcased in Philadelphia. She has a new exhibition at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, “Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know,” and “Sonya Clark: Self-Evident,” a survey show, opens May 8 at the nearby African American Museum in Philadelphia.

A rare look at the work and contributions of pioneering sculptor of Augusta Savage, the exhibition “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” was on view at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Fla., through April 7. The traveling career-spanning retrospective “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen” is at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., through May 19. Three works by Pindell were included in the sale.

Bids for the sale were placed from the floor of Swann, by phone, and via the Internet. When the hammer came down on “Block Island” by Lewis, Johnson’s “Jitterbugs V,” and “Dusk” by Oliver, all record breakers, clapping erupted among those in attendance. CT

 

Swann African-American Fine Art Auction, New York, N.Y. | April 4, 2019
Sale Total: $3,820,080 (Hammer: $3,072,300) | Estimates for Sale as a Whole: $2,267,700-$3,434,800
175 Lots Offered, 155 Lots Sold (89 percent sell-through rate)

 

FIND MORE about how artists and their estates might benefit directly from the sale of their work on the secondary market through artist resale royalties

 


Lot 105: NORMAN LEWIS (1909-1979), “Block Island,” 1973-75 (oil on linen canvas, 1270 x 1524 mm / 50 x 60 inches). | Estimate $200,000-$300,000. Sold for $389,000 including fees (Hammer price $320,000)

 


Lot 163: EMMA AMOS (1938- ), “Let Me Off Uptown,” 1999-2000 (oil and photo transfer on linen canvas, with metallic paint, glitter, collage and African fabric borders, 2032 x 2002 mm / 80 x 78 7/8 inches). Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $125,000 including fees (Hammer price $100,000) RECORD

 


Lot 5: AUGUSTA SAVAGE (1892 – 1962), “Gamin,” circa 1929 (plaster painted dark brown, 229 x 146 x 111 mm / 9×5 3/4 x 4 3/8 inches). Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Sold for $68,750 including fees (Hammer price $55,000) SAME PRICE AS STANDING RECORD

 


Lot 18: GORDON PARKS (1912 – 2006), “Children with Doll,” 1942 (silver print, 362 x 489 mm / 14 1/4 x 19 1/4 inches). | Estimate $4,000-$6,000. Sold for $8,125 including fees (Hammer price $6,500)

 


Lot 24: WILLIAM H. JOHNSON (1901 -1970), “Jitterbugs V,” 1941-42 (color screenprint and pochoir on wove paper, 381 x 267 mm / 15×10 1/2 inches (trimmed inside the image). | Estimate $15,000-$25,000. Sold for $118,750 including fees (Hammer price $95,000) SAME PRICE AS STANDING RECORD

 


Lot 35: CHARLES WHITE (1918-1979), “Caliban,” circa 1950 (charcoal with crayon, erasing, stumping and wash on thin cream wove paper, 1041 x 686 mm / 41 x 27 1/4 inches). | Estimate $150,000-$250,000. Sold for $221,000 including fees (Hammer price $180,000)

 


Lot 54: CHARLES MCGEE (1924- ), “Untitled (Table Top Still Life),” 1957 (oil on masonite board, 560 x 934 mm / 22 x 36 3/4 inches). | Estimate $10,000-$15,000. Sold for $25,000 including fees (Hammer price $20,000)

 
 


Lot 87: ROMARE BEARDEN (1911 – 1918), “Early Morning, 1968-69 (collage of various mixed printed papers on masonite board, 229 x 305 mm / 9 x 12 inches). Estimate $80,000-$120,000. Sold for $185,000 including fees (Hammer price $150,000)

 


Lot 102: ELIZABETH CATLETT (1915-2012), “Untitled (Civil Rights Protest),” 1974 (mixed media including ink, collage, and pencil on heavy wove paper, approximately 622 x 476 mm / 24 1/2 x 18 3/4 inches). | Estimate $60,000-$90,000. Sold for $118,750 including fees (Hammer price $95,000) COVER LOT

 


Lot 111: MARIE JOHNSON CALLOWAY (1920-1918), “Atlanta,” 1975 (collage of various printed fabric and papers, mounted on board, 757 x 280 mm / 29 3/4×11 inches). | Estimate $3,000-$5,000. Sold for $10,625 including fees (Hammer price $8,500)

 


Lot 112: KERMIT OLIVER (1943- ), “Dusk,” 1972 (acrylic on masonite board, 1972. 914 x 1219 mm / 36 x 48 inches). | Estimate $35,000-$50,000. Sold for $112,500 (Hammer price $90,000) RECORD

 


Lot 119: FRANK BOWLING (1936- ), “In M. of M.W. III, 1980 (acrylic on cotton canvas, 1820 x 464 mm / 72×18 1/4 inches). | Estimate $80,000-$120,000. Sold for $118,750 including fees (Hammer price $95,000)

 


Lot 134: FAITH RINGGOLD (1930- ), “Sleeping: Lover’s Quilt #2,” 1986 (acrylic on canvas and pieced tie dyed and printed fabrics, 1970 x 2007 mm / 77 x 79 1/2 inches). | Estimate $100,000-$150,000. Sold for $221,000 including fees (Hammer price $180,000)

 


Lot 156: JOHN BIGGERS (1924-2001), “Death and Resurrection,” 1996 (oil on linen canvas, 1016 x 1524 mm / 40 x 60 inches). | Estimate $150,000-$250,000. Sold for $149,000 including fees (Hammer price $120,000).

 


Lot 164: MARY LOVELACE O’NEAL (1942- ), “Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did,” 1995 (oil and mixed media on cotton canvas, 2134 x 1524 mm / 84 x 60 inches). | Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $40,000 including fees (Hammer price $32,000) AUCTION DEBUT

 


Lot 172: SONYA CLARK (1967- ), From the Albers Interaction series: “Albers #1,” 2013 (cotton thread and combs, 140 x 114×25 mm / 5 1/2 x 4 1/2×1 inches). | Estimate $4,000-$6,000. Sold for $9,100 including fees (Hammer price $7,000) AUCTION DEBUT

 


Lot 174: ALLISON JANAE HAMILTON (1984- ), “The Traveller III,” 2014 (chromogenic print, 610 x 610 mm / 24 x 24 inches). | Estimate $2,000-$3,000. Sold for $8,125 including fees (Hammer price $6,500) AUCTION DEBUT

 

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