Lot 10A: ROBERT COLESCOTT (1925-2009), “Eat dem Taters,” 1975 (acrylic on canvas, 59 x 79 inches / 149.9 x 200.7 cm). | Estimate $2 million-$3 million. SOLD for $3,922,000 fees included


PAINTINGS BY SOME OF THE MOST PROMINENT and promising Black artists on the radar of collectors and institutions were among the offerings in Christie’s New York auctions last week. The 21st Century Evening Sale on Nov. 7, included works by Robert Colescott (1925-2009), El Anatsui, Rashid Johnson, and Derek Fordjour. Paintings by Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) and Henry Taylor, who both currently have major museum exhibitions in New York City (Hendricks at Frick Madison, Taylor at the Whitney Museum of American Art), were also featured.

Christie’s led the fall sales in New York with auctions at Sotheby’s and Phillips slated for this week. Following generally lackluster spring auctions, Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale brought record results for rising artists Jadé Fadojutimi and Reggie Burrows Hodges, and notable values for those whose critical attention is heightened, including Johnson, Taylor, Fordjour, and Rick Lowe. At the same time, works by stalwarts such as Hendricks and Anatsui barely reached their low estimates and a painting by Mark Bradford went unsold.

“Eat dem Taters” (1975), a masterful painting by Colescott was a highlight of the auction. Surpassing its estimate, the lot sold for $3.9 million. Satirical, provocative, and subversive, the many poignant adjectives associated with the artist’s thought-provoking images are on full display in the work.

The painting is a parody of “The Potato Eaters” (1885) by Vincent van Gogh, which employs a dark palette and pictures peasants gathering for a meal after a hard day working the land. Colescott’s interpretation replaces the white peasants with Black subjects depicted as stereotyped caricatures, smiling widely with oversized pink lips.


Lot 20A: JADÉ FADOJUTIMI (b. 1993), 2021 “A Thistle Throb,” (oil and acrylic on canvas, 70 3/4 x 70 3/4 inches / 179.6 x 179.6 cm). | Estimate $500,000-$700,000. SOLD for $1,683,500 fees included. RECORD


Over the past half century, “Eat dem Taters” has been written about extensively in newspapers, art publications, and catalogs. First presented in “Robert Colescott: Paintings,” a 1975 survey Razor Gallery in New York, the lot was featured in major museum retrospectives of the artist: “Robert Colescott: A Retrospective 1975-1986,” organized by the New Museum in 1989; and “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott,” recently organized in 2019 by the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Both exhibitions were co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and traveled to multiple venues.

The $3.9 million result for “Eat dem Taters” represents Colescott’s third-highest price at auction. “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook” (1975) holds the artist’s auction record, having sold for $15.3 million in 2021. The painting is a parodic reimagining of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851) by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868). Both Colescott paintings were produced in 1975 and represent racial interrogations of 19th century European paintings.

A NEW AUCTION RECORD was achieved by Fadojutimi’s “Thistle Throb” (2021). The striking abstract painting is defined by a complex network of strokes, gestures, and organic forms. Emotional and mysterious, the composition is anchored by a spectrum of violet hues. The palette undoubtedly informed the title, which references a purple flower (thistle).

The large, six-foot square painting sold for nearly $1.7 million, more than twice the high estimate. The result set a new record for the young British artist, narrowly surpassing her existing benchmark by about $70,000. The previous record was established two years ago when “Myths of Pleasure” (2017) by Fadojutimi sold for more than $1.6 million (1,172,000 British Pounds) at Phillips London on Oct. 15, 2021.


Lot 13A: RASHID JOHNSON (b. 1977), Bruise Painting “Picture Maker,” 2021 (oil on linen, 96 3/4 x 86 1/4 inches / 244.5 x 219.1 cm). | Estimate $800,000-$1.2 million. SOLD for $1,744,000 fees included


Hodges is a mid-career artist whose opportunities and regard have increased in recent years. “Intersection of Color: Loge” (2019) by Hodges sold for $730,800, matching the artist’s existing auction record. The result was more than twice the low estimate. Both “Intersection of Color: Loge” and “Intersection of Color: Suite” (2019), which sold for $730,800 at Phillips New York on May 18, 2022, establishing the record, were featured in “Intersection of Color,” a solo exhibition of the artist presented at The Press Hotel in Portland, Maine, in 2020.

BRUISE PAINTING “Picture Maker” (2021) by Johnson doubled its low estimate selling for $1.7 million. The lot is part of the New York artist’s Anxious Men series of scrawled line drawings depicting abstracted figures. The works tap into the emotions, anxiety, and vulnerability familiar to many Black men who are loathe to share or admit their circumstances.

Post-pandemic, Johnson introduced the Bruise works, employing a blue and black palette and its familiar symbolism and reference to wounds. The painting uses a grid format and the language of abstraction to explore the pain and anxiousness that sprout from isolation and uncertainty.

Taylor’s “Batman” Part Alien (2018) is a portrait of Greg “Batman” Davis, a founding member of the Crips, the Los Angeles-based gang. The painting sold for $819,000, more than twice the low estimate. “Henry Taylor: B Side,” a 30-year retrospective and the largest exhibition of the artist to date, is currently on view at the Whitney Museum.


Lot 29A: DEREK FORDJOUR (b. 1974), “Rhythm & Blues,” 2020 (acrylic, charcoal, oilstick and foil on newspaper mounted to canvas, 80 x 72 inches / 203 x 183 cm). | Estimate $250,000-$350,000. SOLD for $730,800 fees included


Through performance and sport, Fordjour considers issues of race, identity, and inequality. His work explores the culture of ritual; the power of the collective; and the agency, vulnerability, and scrutiny that comes with visibility and achievement.

A vibrant, mixed-media painting, “Rhythm & Blues” (2020) by Fordjour captures two marching band members mid stride, their legs raised high, knees pointing forward, and thighs parallel to the ground, emphasizing their strength, impeccable posture, and coordinating rhythm. The lot yielded twice the high estimate, selling for $730,800.

The auction’s total sales hammered at $88.4 million ($107.5 million with fees) falling below pre-sale estimates of $92.5 million to $134 million. The sell through rate was 95 percent by lot and 95 percent in terms of the hammer price against the low estimate. Two lots were withdrawn from the auction, leaving 41 up for bid. (Both the pre-sale estimates and sell-through rates accounted for the withdrawals).

Among the top 10 lots, an Untitled (1981) painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the auction’s second-highest result, selling for $11.9 million. The Colescott painting was No. 8 at $3.9 million. CT


* All final results include fees. The hammer price and estimates do not include fees


FIND MORE Between Jan. 1 and May 2023, fine art sales at auction decreased 14 percent from the same period in 2022, according to Artnet’s Art Intelligence Report, Mid-Year Review 2023


Lot 4A: REGGIE BURROWS HODGES (b. 1965), “Intersection of Color: Loge,” 2019 (acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches / 121.9 x 152.4 cm). | Estimate $300,000-$500,000. SOLD for $730,800 fees included. RECORD


Lot 5A: HENRY TAYLOR (b. 1958), “Batman” Part Alien, 2018 (acrylic on canvas, 83 7⁄8 x 72 inches / 213 x 183 cm). | Estimate $300,000-$500,000. SOLD for $819,000 fees included


Lot 16A: MARK BRADFORD (b. 1961), “Window Shopper,” 2005 (mixed media collage on canvas, 47 ¼ x 62 inches / 120 x 157.5 cm). | Estimate $2 million-$3 million. UNSOLD


Lot 18A: RICK LOWE (b. 1961), Untitled #071421 (acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 60 x 84 inches / 152.4 x 213.4 cm). | Estimate $120,000-$180,000. SOLD for $226,800 fees included


Lot 23A: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Triple Portrait: World Conqueror,” 2011 (oil, aluminum leaf, variegation leaf and combination gold leaf on canvas, 60 x 40 inches / 152.4 x 101.6 cm). | Estimate $2 million-$3 million. SOLD for $2,107,000 fees included


Lot 28A: EL ANATSUI (b. 1944), “Sechra,” 2014 (found aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, 109 x 111 x 8 inches / 277 x 282 x 20.3 cm, installation dimensions variable). | Estimate $1 million-$1.5 million. SOLD for $1,260,000 fees included


A wealth of volumes have been published about the artists included in the Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale. “Rashid Johnson” (Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series) was published earlier this month. “Jadé Fadojutimi: Jesture” accompanied an exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London and is the first book to explore the artist’s work. “Reggie Burrows Hodges,” the artist’s debut monograph, was recently published. “Reggie Burrows Hodges: Hawkeye” is forthcoming in December. Co-edited by Raphaela Platow and Lowery Stokes Sims, “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott” documents the artist’s recent traveling retrospective. Also consider, “Mark Bradford (Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series);” “Mark Bradford: Pickett’s Charge,” accompanying Bradford’s 360-degree installation at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; “Mark Bradford: End Papers,” the exhibition catalog for the artist’s recent survey at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas; and “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day,” which documents the artist’s Venice Biennale exhibition in 2017. “Henry Taylor: B Side” accompanies the artist’s 30-year retrospective, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. A new volume co-authored by Aimee Ng and Antwaun Sargent, “Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at The Frick” was published on the occasion of the artist’s current exhibition at Frick Madison in New York. Forthcoming in February 2024, “Rick Lowe,” the first book to explore the Houston-based artist’s work, is co-edited by Dieter Roelstraete and Sargent.


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