A LARGE-SCALE SWIMMING POOL PAINTING by Hurvin Anderson set a new artist record in London. “Audition” (1998) sold for more than $10 million ($10,138,261 / 7,369,000 British Pounds) at Christie’s 20th / 21st Century Evening Sale on Oct. 15. Bidding soared far beyond expectations, reaching nearly five times the high estimate ($1,375,798-$2,063,698 / 1,000,000-1,500,000 British Pounds).

The record-breaking result is nearly three times Anderson’s previous benchmark established in 2017 and stands as one of the most expensive works sold at auction by a living Black artist. Only four others have garnered higher prices.


Lot 9: HURVIN ANDERSON (Born 1965), “Audition,” February 1998 (oil on canvas, 68 1/8 x 100 1/8inches / 175.5 x 254.2 cm). | Estimate $1,375,798-$2,063,698 / 1,000,000-1,500,000 British Pounds. Sold for (Hammer Price: $8,529,953 / 6,200,000 British Pounds) $10,138,261 / 7,369,000 British Pounds fees included. RECORD


“Audition” is an example of Anderson’s early production and longstanding talent. The painting was made in 1998, the same year the British artist earned his masters degree from the Royal College of Art in London. “Audition” was originally acquired in 1999 from the now-shuttered Norwich Gallery in Norwich, Norfolk, UK, and had been unseen publicly since, until it appeared at auction.

It’s an expansive scene executed with incredible attention to detail, from the wave patterns on the surface of the pool and spectrum of colors employed for bathing suits worn by dozens of swimmers to the layered exterior landscape and the multiple panes in the floor to ceiling windows.

Figures are dispersed throughout the community space, a poetic composition evincing both tranquility and a bevy of activity and even competition, which the title of the work references. Anderson gathers his figures on high and low diving boards, around the surface of the pool, and wading in small groups across the body of water. Executed in shades of gray, the identity of his subjects is left to the viewer’s imagination and the freighted history of race and public pools hovers just outside the picture frame.

ANDERSON PAINTS LUSH LANDSCAPES and places of personal, cultural, and communal significance, including barber shops, country clubs, and swimming pools. Blending abstraction and figuration, he depicts singular moments that speak to identity and belonging. He favors rich, tropical colors and uses decorative patterns and architectural details to reimagine traditional landscapes and explore notions of place.

Born in Britain, Anderson is of Jamaican heritage. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2017. “Hurvin Anderson: Anywhere but Nowhere,” a solo exhibition of his work was recently on view at the Arts Club of Chicago. In London, Thomas Dane Gallery is currently presenting “Hurvin Anderson: Reverb,” through Dec. 4.


“Audition” (1998) by Hurvin Anderson sold for $10,138,261 (7,369,000 British Pounds) at Christie’s 20th/21st Century: Evening Sale in London on Oct. 15, 2021. The result established a new auction record for the British artist and was the second-highest priced lot in the sale. | Courtesy Christie’s


IN A VIDEO NARRATIVE from Christie’s, “Audition” was described thus: “A vast cinematic panorama viewed from a elevated vantage point, it offers a glistening depiction of a public swimming pool, its waters alive with human activity. Divers and bathers punctuate the shimmering blue waters, every splash, ripple, and conversation choreographed with near audible precision. Drawing upon memories from his childhood and photographs taken by his brother, Anderson blurs the real and imaginary. Here we are poised between inside and outside, simultaneously observing and participating in Anderson’s painterly theater.”

“A vast cinematic panorama viewed from a elevated vantage point, [‘Audition’] offers a glistening depiction of a public swimming pool, its waters alive with human activity. Divers and bathers punctuate the shimmering blue waters, every splash, ripple, and conversation choreographed with near audible precision.” — Christie’s

The record-setting painting shot past Anderson’s previous high mark set in October 2017. “Country Club: Chicken Wire” (2008), a green tennis court framed in red is surrounded by trees and overlaid with a repeated pattern of hexagons, evincing a chain-link fence separating the viewer from the otherwise inviting scene. “Country Club: Chicken Wire” sold for nearly $3.5 million ($3,456,804 / 2,648,750 British Pounds), also at Christie’s London.

Anderson’s current record of $10,138,261 (7,369,000 British Pounds) ranks “Audition” among the most expensive paintings by a living Black artist sold at auction. Only three paintings by American artists Kerry James Marshall, Robert Colescott, and Mark Bradford have achieved higher results:

Christie’s 20th / 21st Century Evening Sale included 36 lots. The sale total was $88,254,887 (64,561,000 British Pounds), with a 90 percent sell through rate by lot, 92 percent by value.

Paintings by Black artists were the top two lots. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Because It Hurts the Lungs” (1986) sold for $11,319,7308 (8,227,750 British Pounds) and dominated the auction. Anderson’s “Audition” painting sold for the second-highest price in the sale. “How you like it daddy…” (2004), a painting by Bradford, was also among the lots featured. CT


UPDATE (11/03/21): Corrected to reflect recent record-setting result of Robert Colescott’s “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware” (1975), which sold for more than $15 million at Sotheby’s New York in May, making “Audition” by Hurvin Anderson, the fifth, rather than the fourth, most expensive painting at auction by a living Black artist


* All sales results include Buyer’s Premium fees, unless otherwise noted. The Christie’s London sale was conducted in British Pounds


READ MORE about Hurvin Anderson in an interview with Culture Type

READ MORE About resale royalty rights for artists, from Artsy


“Hurvin Anderson (Contemporary Painters Series)” was recently published and is described as “the first comprehensive overview” of the artist’s career to date. “Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop” documents his exhibition at the ‎Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. “Hurvin Anderson: Reporting Back” was published on the occasion of his survey exhibition at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham UK.


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