Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Auction: Sale 2290

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2290 is scheduled for October 18, 2012. These biannual sales (February and October) have been growing over the years. Swann's first auction devoted entirely to African-American Fine Art was February 6, 2007, and many of us who have an interest in African American art/artists, either as viewers/observers or bidders, have come to expect a wide selection for our viewing or acquiring pleasure. There is a catalogue that accompanies each of the auctions, and it serves as historical documentation of the works sold, creating historical reference and provenance.

The market for modern and contemporary art continues to grow at a rapid pace; however, the actual number of artists that sell at high prices at auction is fairly small. Because of my interest in the works of African American artists, I am always concerned as to how successful their works fair in the auction setting, particularly as it compares with the larger field of American art. Regardless of selling price, one of the greatest benefits of these auctions has been the slow but progressive inclusion of African American art into auction data. 

According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, "Last year's sales met or exceeded expectations and that we're starting to see pre-recession numbers." I would tend to agree with Freeman's statements. The October 06, 2011 Sale was the most successful auction over the past three years (February 2009 to October 2011), bringing in $1,789,989 with Buyer's Premium, and selling approximately 75% of the lots.
Robert Duncanson, Young America
The following major highlights from Sale 2290 prove that substantial and importance pieces are steadily entering the art market. Robert Duncanson's Young America (1846), an oil on canvas, is a very scarce work from the beginning of his career and is the earliest painting in the Sale; its estimate is $50,000 to $75,000. "This unusual depiction of a heroic young man raising both sword and the American flag was possibly a commission by the subject's parents before the boy was sent off to fight in the Mexican-American War."

Eldzier Cortor, Classical Composition No. 4

Sale 2290 will offer two Eldzier Cortor paintings from important periods for the figurative artist. This is the first time that any works by Cortor have been featured in Swann's African-American Fine Art Auction. One of those works, Classical Composition, No. 4 (circa 1973), is a large impressive oil on canvas. It is the top lot and has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. Cortor is best known for elegant, elongated depictions of women that show the influences of his study of African sculpture, 19th Century French Painting, and his travels to the Sea Islands and the West Indies.
Charles White, Songs  of Life
Charles White's Songs of Life (1953-54) is a tour de force in pen and ink. White used this drawing in his application for the John Hay Whitney Fellowship and it has not been exhibited since. White was one of the 27 African American recipients of a John Hay Whitney fellowship in 1955. His project under a Whitney Opportunity Fellowship was "to depict in a series of graphic prints, drawings, and paintings, the cultural meaning behind the spirituals, secular works, and blues song of the Negro people." Songs of Life is a recently discovered large and important drawing which has an auction estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. 

Norman Lewis, Magenta Haze

Three paintings from Norman Lewis' Abstract Expressionist period will be up for auction, including Magenta Haze (1947), one of his earliest abstract paintings to come to auction. This oil on canvas has an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000.

Elizabeth Catlett, The Co-Founder Award
Elizabeth Catlett's The Co-Founder Award, cast bronze (circa 1995) has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

This post has featured only a few artists and select works in Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale scheduled for October 18, 2012. In addition to the fine  art artists and their works represented here, Sale 2290 will include works by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hughie Lee Smith, Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff, William Edouard Scott, Thelma Johnson Streat, and others.

See the Online African-American Fine Art catalogue.

1 comment:

  1. Noteworthy is the wonderful 1953 Norman Lewis rituals oil painting in green with dozens of figures, a look into the psyche of the artist. Lot 41.