Monday, September 22, 2014

Swann Galleries: African-American Fine Art Featuring the Richard A. Long Collection

Swann Auction Galleries will offer a two-part auction of African-American Fine Art on October 9, 2014. Sale 2359, consisting of 171-lots has a separate print catalogue for each of the two parts. Part 1 is the Richard A. Long Collection of African-American Art, consisting of 47 lots that feature more than 60 artworks from the estate of Professor Richard A. Long. Part 2 consists of 124 lots. Excellent choices are to be found in both parts of Sale 2359. To have an opportunity to view much of the artwork in this sale is a rare experience, affording the viewer a chance to see many pieces that have been in private collections and not made available for public viewing in decades, if ever. The online and print catalogues offer a rare view into that world.

This post features a few highlights from both parts of the upcoming sale. When I initially heard that there would be an auction of Richard Long's African-American Art Collection, I was expecting to see representative pieces from Beauford Delaney, Romare Bearden, and possibly Hale Woodruff from what I knew of his professional connection and relationship with these artists. However, there were pleasant surprises among the work of these artists in the collection, as well as  artists, such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Alma Thomas, William Artis and many others who are prominently represented in the collection. The following are representative samples from part 1 of the upcoming auction. To view a full selection, see the online catalogue.

William E. Artis, Vernon, Terra cotta, mounted on wood base, ca. 1946-50. 14"high; 22" high, including base. Image: Swann Auction Galleries.
Lot 8  William E. Artis,   Vernon 
Vernon, a terra cotta mounted on wood base, is a large stylized head by William E. Artis and is typical of his beautiful modern sculpture. Artis's Vernon is a fine example of his 1940s portraits of African-American youth that he made with a distinctive and sensitive realism. This 22 inches high, including base, sculpture has an estimate of $20,000 - $30,000.  
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $57,500.

Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Abstraction), Oil on linen canvas, 1964, 16" x 13¼". Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 13   Beauford Delaney,     Untitled (Abstraction)
This is one of the five Delaney artworks appearing in the Long Collection. This small oil on linen canvas is an exquisite example of Delaney's signature abstraction in yellow and is from an important year in his development. This piece has an estimate of $20,000 - $25,000. 
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $75,000.

Alma W. Thomas, Abstraction (Striped Composition), Watercolor and pencil on paper, ca. 1971, 15" x 22½". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Lot 23     Alma W. Thomas,       Untitled (Striped Composition)
This watercolor has an estimate of  $15,000 - $25,000. 
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $28,160.

Romare Bearden, Untitled (The Trojan Horse), Collage of various papers and mixed media, mounted on masonite board, ca. 1977, 5"x 4½". Image:Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 32     Romare Bearden,      Untitled (The Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse is one of the 14 lots, featuring works by Romare Bearden. This small but powerful collage is a wonderful example and a revelation. This scene was not included or developed into Bearden's important 1977 Odysseus series of collages and watercolors, which  begins with The Fall of Troy. This work adds to our understanding of his conception of the series. Lot 32 has an estimate of $15,000 - $25,000. 
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $12,500.

Romare Bearden, Brazil, Collage of various printed color papers, mounted on masonite board, ca. 1978, 15" x 11". Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 34        Romare Bearden,       Brazil
In this striking collage, Bearden shows his skillful hand - the cutting and layering of the various shaped papers that make up the plumed headdress form a tight, almost abstract composition. Brazil may have been a maquette for a poster; it has an auction estimate of $35,000 - $50,000.

Although part 2 of the auction is comprehensive in scope, including exceptional early pieces, modern masters, and contemporary artists covering a variety of media, I've decided to simply highlight some of the abstract painting appearing in the auction. 
Lot was unsold.

Charles Alston, The Bridge, Oil on linen canvas, ca. 1950-53, 20"x 50". Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 81       Charles Alston,    The Bridge    
The Bridge, an oil on canvas, is a scarce example of Charles Alston's early modernist painting and his transition toward abstraction. This lot has an estimate of $20,000 - $30,000. 
Lot was unsold.

Norman Lewis, Untitled, Oil on heavy linen canvas, 1953, 39"x 47".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 86       Norman Lewis,    Untitled
This oil on canvas is a beautiful painting that is a very fine example of Norman Lewis's evolving Abstract Expressionist idiom in the early 1950s. This intriguing transitional work comes from a short period when the artist used a heavier oil paint application and an editing layer of white paint from 1953 to 1954. Lot 86 has an estimate of $60,000 - $90,000.  
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $75,000.

Löis Mailou Jones, Festival, Mixed media on thin cream woven paper, 1964, 32½" x 24".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 112    Löis Mailou Jones,    Festival     
This large and vibrant work on paper is a scarce example of abstract painting by the artist. Jones was inspired by the rising popularity of Abstract Expressionism in the early 1960s, and made some forays into abstraction. Festival has an estimate of $7,000 - $10,000.
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $10,625. 


Aaron Douglas, Creation, Oil on canvas board, 1969, 20"x 26".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 125      Aaron Douglas,    Creation
This striking oil painting is an unusual example of a foray into abstraction by Aaron Douglas. Douglas had never completely crossed into abstraction like his peers Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff despite a modernist sensibility. This work, Creation, has an estimate of $30,000 - $40,000. 
Lot was Unsold. 

Kenneth Victor Young, Untitled, Acrylic on raw cotton canvas, 1969-70, 52"x 58".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries    

Lot 128       Kenneth Victor Young,    Untitled
This large canvas of floating orbs is a wonderful example of the late 1960s paintings of Kenneth Young, the Washington, DC color field painter who is regaining national recognition today. This lot has an estimate of $12,000 - $18,000.  
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $18,750.

Alma W. Thomas, Untitled (from the Atmospheric Effects Series), Watercolor on thick woven paper, 1971, 22"x 30½".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 129   Alma W. Thomas,   Untitled (from the Atmospheric Effects Series)
This lot has an estimate of $20,000 - $30,000.
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $35,000.
Sam Gilliam, Paper Theatre, Raked acrylic on polypropylene on plywood panel, 1991, 30"x 62".  Image: Swann Auction Galleries   

Lot 165    Sam Gilliam,     Paper Theatre
Paper Theatre  has an estimate of $30,000 - $40,000.  
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $30,720.

Before closing, I must mentioned that the top lot in Sale 2359 is Elizabeth Catlett's Singing Head (Lot 140) carved wood with painted details and inlay. This example of Catlett's mid-career work has an estimate of $120,000 - $180,000.  
Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $125,000.
The works will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries Saturday, October 4, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, October 6 through Wednesday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, October 9, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. An illustrated auction catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online.

For further information on the auction or the works, contact Swann's African-American Fine Art department                                      
Live online bidding is also available via

Thanks to Swann Galleries for the use of images, written material in the catalogue and Press Release.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Weschler's Fall Auction to Feature African American Artists

Weschler's has been an auction tradition in the Nation's Capital for over 120 years. As Washington D.C.'s only auction house, Weschler's has been in the unique position to auction, over the years, property from many prominent local estates. They hold at least 6 Capital Collections estate auctions each season which feature European and American furniture and decorations; paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture; jewelry, coins and watches; 20th century decorative arts; Asian works of art; and rugs, carpets and tapestries. 

Weschler's fall auction which will be held on September 19th will begin its 2014-2015 season, and among the offerings in their upcoming  Capital Collections Estate Auction, Sale 1417 will be an important selection of 20thcentury African American works of art cultivated from prominent Washington, D.C. collections. The following artists are represented from those collections: Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Sam Gilliam, Romare Bearden, and Joseph Holston. 

This post features highlights of Sale 1417. Two notable sculptures by artist and activist, Elizabeth Catlett, come to auction from the esteemed collection of her personal friend and civil rights pioneer, the Reverend Douglas Moore and his wife, Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore. 
Elizabeth Catlett, Bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bronze with a green patina, 1990, 18½"x14"x12". Property of  Reverend Douglas Moore and Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore Collection. Image: Weschler's Auctioneers and Appraisers

Lot 393  Elizabeth Catlett   Bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
This bust is bronze with a green patina on a black marble plinth base; it has an estimate of $50,000 - $70,000. The catalogue notes that a second version  of this sculpture can be found at the King Arts Complex in Columbus, Ohio. 

Elizabeth Catlett, Female Torso, Marble on wood base, height: 14". Property of Reverend Douglas Moore and Dr. Doris Hughes-Moore Collection. Image: Weschler's Auctioneers and Appraisers

Lot 394  A second sculpture from the Moore Collection is a Female Torso by Elizabeth Catlett. This marble sculpture on a wood base has an auction estimate of $30,000 - $40,000. Female Torso serves as the cover image of the Capital Collections Estate Auction catalogue.

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Untitled, Watercolor on paper, sight size: 30"x 22". Property of George R. Rhodes, Jr., Revocable Trust. Image: Weschler's Auctioneers and Appraisers
Lot 397 This watercolor, Untitled, by Alma Woodsey Thomas is from the George R. Rhodes, Jr., Revocable Trust. Dated from 1960, the watercolor on paper has an estimate of $10,000 - $15,000. There is a catalogue note that a second painting depicting a study for a double portrait can be found on verso.

Sam Gilliam, Misty, Acrylic on canvas, 53"x 66". Property of George R. Rhodes, Jr., Revocable Trust. Image: Weschler's Auctioneers and Appraisers

Lot 400  Another piece of art from the Rhodes Trust is lot 400 entitled Misty by Sam Gilliam. This acrylic on canvas is dated 1969 and has an auction estimate of $20,000 - $30,000.

For a full range of available art by African American artists, see lots 393 - 402.

As a convenience to clients who cannot attend the auction, Weschler's offers telephone bids or will execute absentee bids without charge. In addition, buyers may bid live on Invaluable. Please visit Invaluable to register for the auction and bid live along with those in the auction house and on the telephone. Read more about buying at Weschler's. For additional information on bidding, contact: 202/ 628-1281.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

David Huffman: Artist Talk


  The Beauty of Affliction           Crystal Meth          Meth Series                

Basketball          Index of Colors          Smoky, Atmospheric        

Emotional State of the Painting          Dichotomy Between Hard and Soft

Social Abstraction          Reduce Vocabulary 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Black Art Project (BAP) Booklist 6

This is the sixth in a continuing series, highlighting either recently published books or those that are forthcoming, that have an African American art focus. When building a personal library that has some focus on African American visual art, it is advisable to make your book purchases shortly after the book or catalogue has been published. Making an early purchase more readily assures you that the titles you are interested in have not gone out of print. When a title does go out of print, the secondary market becomes a viable option; however, you must then weigh cost and condition differences among the few dealers that may have a copy for sale. I can not over emphasize that fine art books are published in smaller print runs than books in other subject disciplines.

The following post and the addendum of recent publications are simply a few new titles that have been released since the last Booklist, consisting of a compilation of reviews from various publishers' notes and other source materials: 

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist

The catalogue, Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, accompanies the first full-scale survey of the work of Archibald Motley and features more than 140 color illustrations. It was on view at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University from January 30 through May 11, 2014. The catalogue includes an essay by Richard J. Powell, organizer and curator of Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, as well as contributions from other scholars examining the life, work, and legacy of one of twentieth-century America's most significant artists. After its debut at the Nasher Museum of Art, the exhibition travels to other museums across the country: the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Chicago Cultural Center; and the Newark Museum.

Archibald John Motley, Jr., was an American painter, master colorist, and radical interpreter of urban culture. Among twentieth-century American artists, Motley is surely one of the most important and, paradoxically, also one of the most enigmatic. Born in New Orleans in 1891, Motley spent the first half of the twentieth century living and working in a predominately white neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, just blocks away from the city's burgeoning black community. During his formative years, Chicago's African American population increased dramatically, and he was both a witness to and a visual chronicler of that expansion. In 1929 he won a Guggenheim Fellowship, which funded a critical year of study in France, where he painted Blues and other memorable pictures of Paris. In the 1950s, Motley made several lengthy visits to Mexico, where his nephew, the well-known novelist Willard F. Motley, lived. While there, Motley created vivid depictions of Mexican life and landscapes. He died in Chicago in 1981.

Motley's brilliant yet idiosyncratic paintings—simultaneously expressionist and social realist—have captured worldwide attention with their rainbow-hued, syncopated compositions. The exhibition includes the artist's depictions of African American life in early-twentieth-century Chicago, as well as his portraits and archetypes, portrayals of African American life in Jazz Age Paris, and renderings of 1950s Mexico. 

This is a publication of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Barbara Chase-Riboud: The Malcolm X Steles

This catalogue was published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press in 2013. It focuses on Chase-Riboud's monumental series of sculptures dedicated to the assassinated civil rights leader Malcolm X. Begun in 1969, Chase-Riboud's series is explored in terms of developing artistic practice; her travels to China and North Africa; and her experiences in Europe, particularly during the cultural, political, and social upheavals of the 1960s. The volume also includes a fascinating analysis of the Malcolm X sculptures in light of critical debates on abstract art’s role in memorializing the past. 

Beautifully designed and produced, this book presents an illustrated checklist of the 13 sculptures in the series, related drawings and sculptures, and a chronology of Chase-Riboud’s life and career.

Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America                                                                      

At the close of the twentieth century, black artists began to figure prominently in the mainstream American art world for the first time. Thanks to the social advances of the civil rights movement and the rise of multiculturalism, African American artists in the late 1980s and early 90s enjoyed unprecedented access to established institutions of publicity and display. Yet in this moment of ostensible freedom, black cultural practitioners found themselves turning to the history of slavery.

Bound to Appear focuses on four of these artists—Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson—who have dominated and shaped the field of American art over the past two decades through large-scale installations that radically departed from prior conventions for representing the enslaved. Huey Copeland shows that their projects draw on strategies associated with minimalism, conceptualism, and institutional critique to position the slave as a vexed figure—both subject and object, property and person. They also engage the visual logic of race in modernity and the challenges negotiated by black subjects in the present. As such, Copeland argues, their work reframes strategies of representation and rethinks how blackness might be imagined and felt long after the end of the “peculiar institution.” The first book to examine in depth these artists’ engagements with slavery, Bound to Appear will leave an indelible mark on modern and contemporary art.

Ellen Gallagher: Don't Axe ME

Spanning the past twenty years, Don’t Axe Me will provide one of the first opportunities to thoroughly examine the complex formal and
thematic concerns of one of the most significant artists to emerge since the mid-1990s. The title of the exhibition, Don’t Axe Me, evokes her radical approach to image, text, and surface—drawing equally from modernism, mass culture, and social history. This focused survey was at the New Museum and ran concurrently with Gallagher’s exhibition at the Tate Modern, London (May 2013). For the first major New York museum exhibition of her work at New Museum, "Gallagher produced a series of new paintings that both extend her formal and thematic interests and mark a radical new development. Each of the pieces consists of tendril-like formations incised into layers of paint. This complex series is featured in this catalogue along with a booklet of her work from 1993-2009."

Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper

Published on the occasion of her 2013 exhibition at Aspen Art Museum, Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper highlights four recent bodies of work on paper that explore the complex relationship between the photographic archive and processes of self-fashioning, including a new group of works being developed during her time as the Aspen Art Museum's 2013 Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist in Residence. As in Simpson's earlier works, these new drawings and collages take the African-American woman as a point of departure, continuing her longstanding examination of the ways that gender and culture shape the experience of life in our contemporary multiracial society. This beautifully illustrated catalogue features new scholarship by a number of contributors, such as New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als, MoMA Chief Curator of Drawings, Connie Butler, LACMA Chief Curator of Contemporary Art, Franklin Sirmans, and others.
San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown 

In this biography, Robert J. Chandler focuses on Grafton Tyler Brown’s
lithography and his life in nineteenth-century San Francisco, offering a study equally fascinating as a business and cultural history and as an
introduction to Brown the artist.

Chandler’s contextualization of Brown’s career goes beyond the issue of
race. Showing how Brown survived and flourished as a businessman,

Chandler offers unique insight into the growth of printing and publishing in California and the West. He examines the rise of lithography, its commercial and cultural importance, and the competition among lithographic companies. He also analyzes Brown’s work and style, comparing it to the products of rival firms. 

Brown was not respected as a fine artist until after his death. Collectors of western art and Americana now recognize the importance of California and of Brown’s work, some of which depicts Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and they will find Chandler’s checklist, descriptions, and reproductions of Brown’s ephemera—including billheads and maps—as uniquely valuable as Chandler’s contribution to the cultural and commercial history of California. In an afterword, historian Shirley Ann Wilson Moore discusses the circumstances and significance of passing in nineteenth-century America.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Results of Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2353

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2353 held on June 10th brought in $1,242,626 with buyer’s premium, almost reaching its pre-sale low estimates ($1,251,700) for the sale as a whole. Of the 157 lots that were offered at auction, 118 sold (75% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, “This was an exciting auction with enthusiastic bidding on scarce works. We are very happy to continue setting benchmarks for artists long overdue, including significant records for Noah Purifoy and Walter Williams. The sale also built on previous prices with strong results for William T. Williams, Sam Gilliam, Hughie Lee-Smith and Norman Lewis.”

Select highlights from The Shape of Things to Come: African-American Fine Art (Sale 2353) are featured in this post, focusing to a large extent on the lots featured in a May 25th post introducing this Sale.  All price quotes for art sold include buyer's premium.

Lot 22 Hughie Lee-Smith, Rooftops

Hughie Lee-Smith, Rooftops, Oil on linen canvas, 1961, 24"x 18". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Rooftops had a high estimate of $35,000, and it sold to a collector for $37,500, including buyer's premium.  

Lot 45 Noah Purifoy, Untitled: Standing Figure  

Noah Purifoy, Untitled: Standing Figure, Assemblage construction, circa 1968-70, 51½"x 15"x 12". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
The figurative sculpture, Standing Figure, which was acquired directly from Purifoy by sculptor Artis Lane, had a low estimate of $60,000; it sold to a collector for $62,500. This was an artist record for Noah Purifoy.

Lot 61 William T. Williams, Truckin  
William T. Williams, Truckin, Acrylic 0n cotton canvas, 1969, 84"x 60". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Truckin, a significant early painting by William T. Williams, is his earliest painting to date to come to auction. Truckin had the highest selling price for piece of art in this sale, capturing an artist record for William T. Williams. Lot 61 had a high estimate of $100,000, and it sold to an institution for $137,000.

Lot 80 Barkley L. Hendricks, Sergio 
Barkley L. Hendricks, Sergio, Oil and acrylic on linen canvas, 1972, 60"x 44". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Sergio has an extensive museum exhibition history, extending from early 1970s through 2010. Sergio was the second highest piece of art sold in this sale; it had an estimate of $80,000 - $120,000.  Lot 80, surpassing its low estimate, sold to a dealer for $106,250.

Lot 119 Elizabeth Catlett, Standing Figure and Lot 144 Reclined Figure

Elizabeth Catlett, Standing Figure, Carved tropical wood and black enamel, 1986, 18"x 7"x 4¼". Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Elizabeth Catlett, Reclining Figure, Black marble, 2005, 32"x 15"x 11½". Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 119, Standing Figure, one of the two important late-career sculptures by Elizabeth Catlett in Sale 2353 was unsold. The second, Reclined Figure, in black marble, surpassed its high estimate of $90,000, and sold to a collector for $93,750. 

Lot 27 Walter Williams, Southern Landscape
Walter Williams, Southern Landscape, Oil and collage on masonite board, 1963-64, 33"x 29". Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Southern Landscape could be described as Walter Williams' most important painting, as it is one of his best known artworks and a seminal one in his career. Lot 27, Southern Landscape, had an estimate of $20,000 - $30,000; it sold for $81,250 to a collector. Doubling its high estimate, this work set an artist record for Walter Williams. Southern Landscape was one of the three works that set an artist record; the other two were Standing Figure (Purifoy) and Truckin (William T. Williams). 

SEE Final Results for all lots in Sale 2353