Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RESULTS: Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2442

There was a standing-room only crowd at Swann Galleries' spring auction of African-American Fine Art on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Sale 2442, the most recent Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale brought in $2,522,705 with Buyer’s Premium, exceeding its pre-sale low estimate of $1,982,300 by over $540,000. Of the 181 lots that were offered at auction, 138 sold (76% sell-through rate by lot). Nigel Freeman, founder and director of the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Galleries, said “I am thrilled with this sale’s strong results. We saw great activity with bidding often exceeding the high estimate, and several record prices. We continue to build on our strengths with both modern and post-war artists, surpassing our previous records with artworks from the 1930s through the ‘70s.” 

Lot 102: David Hammons, Untitled (Double Body Print Collage),
pigment and ink on paper and printed  paper collage on cardboard,
1976. 30"x 40". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
Six of the top lots either reached or exceeded $100,000; this post will focus on those lots. Lot 102, David Hammons' Untitled (Double Body Print Collage), had a pre-sale estimate of $200,000 - $300,000 and sold for $389,000 with Buyer's Premium. "This striking body print is an excellent example of David Hammons' mid-1970s incorporation of collage, and only the second double body print by the artist to ever come to auction." The Double Body Print Collage was purchased by a collector. 

Lot 101: David Hammons, Untitled (Body Print), pigment and graphite on wove paper,

circa 1975-77. 26" x 21". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries

Another piece of art by David Hammons appeared in the top selling category of artworks sold in sale 2442. Lot 101, an Untitled (Body Print), dating circa 1975 -1977 had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 - $90,000; it sold with a Buyer's Premium for $161,000 to a collector. This body print which is a colorful work on paper includes three impressions of the artist's face.

Lot 112: Alvin D. Loving, Jr. Untitled, diptych of acrylic on shaped cotton canvas, 1968. Approximately

59½" x 69" and 62"x 69" (two irregular hexagons); together 62" x 138". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
All five works by graphic abstractionist Alvin D. Loving, Jr. found homes, with nearly all selling above their estimates. A monumental untitled diptych of two hexagonal canvases broke the artist’s previous auction record, selling to a phone bidder (collector) for $161,000. Lot 112 had pre-sale estimate of $80,000 - $120,000. 

Lot 139: Frank Bowling, Morning Light, acrylic on cotton canvas,

1974. 76½" x 46½". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
Morning Light, a brilliantly colored abstraction by Frank Bowling, is an early example of his mid-1970s series of poured paintings. Lot 139, which was a luminous poured painting, sold for $161,000 and was a record for the artist. Morning Light, an acrylic on canvas, had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 - $90,000; it was purchased by a collector. 

Lot 169: Hughie Lee-Smith, Silhouette, oil on  linen canvas,

1995. 42" x 50". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 169: Silhouette, a large oil on linen canvas, epitomizes the Surrealism found in Hughie Lee Smith's late-career painting. This paining had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 - $90,000; it sold to a dealer for $161,000. 

Lot 13: Sargent Johnson, Untitled (Negro Mother), copper with paint,

1935 -36. Approximately 12" x 6½"x 2". Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries

"Untitled (Negro Mother) is an excellent and very scarce work in copper repoussé by Sargent Johnson from the mid-1930s. In this defining mid-career body of work, Johnson incorporated themes from African sculpture and modernist design to create powerful representations of African-American womanhood...." Lot 13, Untitled (Negro Mother), had a pre-sale estimate of $80,000 - $120,000. Attaining an artist record, it was sold to a dealer for $100,000.  

The next sale of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries will be held in October 2017. For more information, contact Nigel Freeman at 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

RESULTS: Swann Auction Galleries: The Printed and Manuscript African Americana Sale 2441

The Printed and Manuscript African Americana Sale 2441 was held on March 30, 2017 at Swann Auction Galleries. This was the 22nd annual Printed and Manuscript African Americana Sale, and it was the first time that the sale exceeded $1M in the department's history. Sale 2441 included 530 lots, still demonstrating that there is a continual on-going strong and growing market of available African American historical items; a market that is driven by private collectors, as well as institutions. Of the 530 lots that were offered for sale, 421 of them sold; this was a 79% sell-through rate by lot. The Sale's total was $1,248,121 with Buyer's Premium.

Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
The success of this sale was, in a large part, due to interest surrounding a carte-de-visite album from the 1860s that contained a previously unknown photograph of Harriet Tubman. The album (Lot 75) had a pre-sale high estimate of $30,000; however, it sold  for $161,000 with Buyer's Premium. Specialist Wyatt Houston Day discovered the photograph of Tubman in an extraordinary album presented to Quaker school teacher Emily Howland in the 1860s by her friend and mentor, Carrie Nichols, both of whom taught at Camp Todd, The Freedmen's School in Arlington, Virginia. The album contained 48 photographs, including 44 cartes-de-visite of noted abolitionists, politicians and friends of Howland. The list of images in the album is truly impressive, and there are two photographs of Harriet Tubman; one, featured in this post, showing a considerably younger Harriet Tubman than normally seen in known images of her.

Sale 2441 also featured "the strongest selection of Civil Rights material we've offered," according to Wyatt Day. Lot 256, an archive of documents relating to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, included checks endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Association's archive is rich in detail with hundreds of pieces, shedding light on this seminal community movement, which heralded the beginning of the modern civil rights struggle. Lot 256 had a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 - $30,000, and it sold for $18,750 with Buyer's Premium.

Lot 260, Draft of Letter from Birmingham Jail. Photo: Swann Auction Galleries

Half of the top selling lots were institutional purchases, including a rare working draft (Lot 260) of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963; and a West African cast
Lot 5, Kuduo. Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
bronze Kuduo ritual burial jar (Lot 5), circa eighteenth to nineteenth century. The draft of the
Letter from Birmingham Jail, offering a defense of King's methods of peaceful and passive resistance had a pre-sale estimate of $10,000 - $15,000; it sold for $40,000 with Buyer's Premium. The Kuduo in Lot 5 has images of slave shackles applied to the sides. The images of slave shackles suggest the person to whom this belonged was a slave dealer. The pre-sale estimate was $10,000 - $15,000, and it sold for $10,625 with Buyer's Premium.

Other highlights from Sale 2441 featured in this post 
Lot 83, Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
focus on books. Lot 83, a signed and inscribed copy of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself (1845) set an auction record. It had a pre-sale estimate of $3,000 - $4,000, and sold for $37,500 with Buyer's Premium.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass... was purchased by a dealer.

Lot 150, Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
Lot 150: Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack for the year of our Lord 1795 was purchased by a collector. This lot had a pre-sale estimate of $30,000 - $40,000, and it set an auction record, selling for $55,000 with Buyer's Premium. 

Lot 382: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were
Lot 382, Photograph: Swann Auction Galleries
Watching God
(1937) inscribed to Mollie Lewis had a pre-sale estimate of $600 - $900. It sold for $7,800, breaking a record for an inscribed first edition copy of
Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Look for the next sale of Printed and Manuscript African Americana at Swann Galleries in Spring 2018. For more information, or to cosign works to future auctions, contact David Rivera with consignment inquiries. The Printed and Manuscript African Americana Department at Swann Galleries, the only one of its kind, has been holding sales since 1996.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Artist Talk: Ben Jones Through the Years

Mentoring at Various Levels          Social Commentary          Environmentalist    

Conservation          Activist          Purposeful Life          Socialist

Travel is Best Education          Exposure to Cultures          Museums Inspire

Blood Series          Evolution/Revolution          Bearden/Matisse          Dancer      

Engaged with What's Happening in the Community/World      

Chuck Davis Dance Company  


Friday, January 20, 2017

TIPS for Black Artists from a Collector

I offer these tips as a result of my continual involvement in the art world. My hopes are that they may help the artist as he/she navigates the unfamiliar and opaque terrain of  that business world. As an artist, those tips that you find useful, please use and make appropriate adjustments that fit your style. Those that do not apply, simply ignore. I decided to post these tips based on an experience that I had a couple of months ago when attending an art opening reception, and one of the 2 artists was 1 hour late for a 2 hour reception. Realizing the business that this artist was possibly losing by not being there to engage with collectors or future collectors, prompted me to create this list.

I asked a couple of artists to use samples of their artwork to enhance the text presented in this post. If you like any of the art work, I can give you contact information for the artist. As an artist, collector, or simply someone interested in the work of black artists,  if you have other tips, please share.
  • For opening and closing receptions in your honor, please be on time, or even get to the venue before it starts. The purpose of these functions is for attendees to get to know the artist and his/her body of work that is on exhibit, and for the artist to mingle with those attending. Remember, some of those attending,  may be collectors or future collectors. As an artist, not being visible and available to answer questions could cut into crucial connections and sales. Receptions are a great venue and offer the ideal opportunity to network
    Don Griffin
    Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 300 gsm,

     Acrylic, Gel Ink, Gold Ink

    Size: 22.75" x 15"

    Date: 2015
  • Create an overview statement for each series that you complete. That overview of your works will answer some of the questions that collectors or prospective collectors may have about pieces in a particular series. It gives the viewer something to look at and refer to when either looking at or thinking about a piece of art to purchase.   

    Don Griffin
    Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 300 gsm,

     Acrylic, Gel Ink, Gold Ink

    Size: 22.75" x 15"

    Date: 2015
  • Accommodate a collector, if he/she requests you to take a photograph with him/her with a piece or pieces purchased. The collector is documenting the artwork and the experience with you, the artist.
  • When artworks leave your studio for gallery or museum exhibitions, or are simply on loan to an individual or institution, keep a record of those pieces of art by name and description. At all times, you want to know where your art is located whenever it is out of your possession.
    Don Griffin
    Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 300 gsm,

     Acrylic, Gel Ink, Gold Ink

    Size: 22.75" x 15"

    Date: 2015
  • Always have your résumé, artist statement, and biographical sketch updated and ready, and be able to explain your work in a broad overview. As a client/collector shows interest in a particular piece or pieces, feel comfortable explaining the specifics of any series created.    
  • Artists should know those collectors who buy their works, so keep rigorous records of any transactions.  
    Billy Colbert, 2016
  • Never leave your work on consignment with a gallery or any alternative space that sells art without getting something in writing. This becomes a business transaction and needs to go beyond a handshake. 
  • Don't isolate yourself. Welcome critiques from other artists, and offer critiques of their work as well. Even as you listen to what collectors say about or interpret your artwork, keep those thoughts in mind. How do those thoughts compare with your vision for what you are creating and trying to achieve. Use what enhances your vision and discard the other, but engaging brings about awareness. 
    Billy Colbert, 2016
  • Be true to your vision and your work; you have a unique voice and perspective that makes your art special. Do not jump on the bandwagon of what is trendy and popular, simply to sell your art.
  • Apply for art opportunities that fit your experience, including artist calls, art colonies/residencies, art fairs, and etc.
    Don Griffin
    Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 300 gsm,

     Acrylic, Gel Ink, Gold Ink

    Size: 22.75" x 15"

    Date: 2015
  • Keep your artist website current with accomplishments, exhibitions, images, contact information, etc. If you do not have the time to keep your website current, then seek the help of a specialist in that area. If funds are not readily available, negotiate and barter for services.
  • When you are selling directly to collectors or clients provide a receipt with details of the work, including title, size, medium, date created, etc. Include a photograph of the artwork for the collector/client and make one for yourself. With the photograph that you keep, include collector/client information, this record will help you in the future if you are having a  retrospective exhibition and the curator may want to request a piece of your work from a collector to include in an exhibition. Recently, I had a curator to contact me because the artist told her that I owned a particular piece of art. In actuality, I did not own the art in question.  
 Please share tips that you would like to share with artists.   
  • Sheila Crider @SheilaCriderArt shared (January 2, 2017): "I think it's important to send thank you notes...."