Sunday, February 20, 2011

Swann Galleries: African-American Fine Art, Sale 2237

Swann Auction Galleries' recent (February 17, 2011) African-American Fine Art Sale was successful in selling 78% of the 148 lots offered. According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African- American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, "As the art market rebounds, we are seeing a surge in collectors seeking African-American fine art - especially scarce and important works. The sale began with intense competition for 19th century paintings by Duncanson and Porter, and the momentum was sustained all the way to the final section, a celebration of Romare Bearden's centennial year, where two of his collages from the early 1970s sold in the high five figures." Freeman's statement is substantiated by the fact that the top five selling lots were bought by collectors.

Elizabeth Catlett, Untitled (Standing
African-American Woman)
Cast bronze with dark brown patina,
1967, 47" x 20" x 8" (without the
 The sale's top lot was Elizabeth Catlett's Untitled (Standing Africa-American Woman), a cast bronze sculpture from 1967 that sold for $108,000, which is the highest prize ever for an Elizabeth Catlett bronze sculpture. As stated in the catalogue, "This stunning bronze figure is a wonderful discovery from Mexico--this is the first time this important sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett has been exhibited in the United States. ...This is one of the largest bronze works by the artist that is not a public commission...." More images and discussion.

Vincent Smith, The Voices are Stilled,
Oil on masonite, 1965,
47½” x 45½”
Vincent Smith's The Voices are Stilled (Lot 70) was also an artist record at $21,600. "The Voices Are Stilled is a striking and important early painting by Vincent Smith, and the first significant work by the artist to come to auction. With intense nocturnal colors, Smith captures the light of an evening street populated by his typically quirky and expressive figures. This Brooklyn street scene also includes the small Bedford-Stuyvesant storefront office of the Congress of Racial Equality (or C.O.R.E.)." In the case of both Catlett and Smith, the art works did not reach their high auction estimates of $180,000 and $25,000, respectively. It is hoped that with continued exposure and knowledge of the value and importance of these works by African American artists that the auction prices will consistently approach or toppled the upper estimates. 

In addition to Catlett's Standing African-American Woman bronze sculpture, the top five lots included these four additional pieces: Romare Bearden's Tidings, a circa 1973 collage, $96.000; Le Balayeur, a 1958 oil on canvas by Beauford Delaney that also sold for $96,000; Bearden's The Stubborn Old Lady, a 1971 collage, $72,000; and Robert Scott Duncanson's Untitled (Landscape), a circa 1860-1865 oil on board, $45,600. Bearden's Tidings and Duncanson's Landscape both exceeded their high estimates. The prices quoted are inclusive of Buyer's Premium.     

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