Saturday, October 5, 2013

Results of Swann's Point of Departure: Postwar African-American Fine Art Sale

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2323 (Point of Departure: Postwar African-American Fine Art) on October 3, 2013 brought in $1,735,690 with buyer’s premium, exceeding its pre-sale low estimate ($1,504,000) for Sale 2323 as a whole. Of the 149 lots that were offered at auction, 111 sold (74% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, “We are very pleased to set a new artist record for Norman Lewis at auction. This important work—previously unrecorded—far surpassed the prior record (also set at Swann, in October 2008) of $312,000. We also saw strong prices for abstract artists including Frank Bowling and Al Loving.”

Four artist records were set in Point of Departure: Postwar African-American Fine Art, Sale 2323. Those lots are highlighted in this post.

Norman Lewis, Untitled
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 
Lot 22: Norman Lewis, Untitled, oil on canvas, circa 1957. This piece exceeded its high estimate of $350,000 and sold for $581,000 to a collector, shattering the artist's previous record of $312,000. As stated in the auction catalogue, "This important mid-century painting is not only a truly exceptional example of Norman Lewis's painting, but an exciting discovery. This previously unrecorded painting is one of the most significant 1950s calligraphic figure paintings by Norman Lewis that we have seen, and yet it has never been publicly exhibited."

Frank Bowling, Karters Choice
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 
Lot 84: Frank Bowling, Karters Choice, acrylic on canvas, 1972. "This monumental Frank Bowling painting is a significant work from his important map paintings, and possibly one of the last major works from the series." Karters Choice exceeded its low estimate of $40,000, selling for $50,000 with buyer's premium to a collector. Bowling painted this in New York after his solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which ran from November 4 - December 6, 1971.

Mavis Pusey, Nuvae
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 
Lot 79: Mavis Pusey, Nuvae, oil on canvas, circa 1968. Nuvae shows the sophistication of Mavis Pusey's late 1960s abstractions with its subtle palette and modernist composition. Its high estimate was $10,000; however, it tripled that estimate as it set an artist record with a realized price of $33,750 with buyer's premium. Nuvae was sold to a collector.

Robert Blackburn, Refugees
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 
Lot 2: Robert Blackburn, Refugees, lithograph, circa 1938. This is the final lot in which a work set an artist record in auction. This scarce, early print which is alternately titled People in a Boat was printed at the Harlem Community Art Center, where Blackburn studied lithography with printmaker Riva Helfond. Refugees sold for $17,500 with buyer's premium against a $7,000 - $10,000 estimate. As with the previously featured lots, Refugees was sold to a collector.

The Norman Lewis (Lot 22) and Frank Bowling (Lot 84) pieces featured earlier were among my personal favorites.  Adding to those favorites were the Elizabeth Catlett, Head, terracotta sculpture, 1947 (Lot 31) which sold for $173,000 to an institution, and Sargent Claude Johnson, Dancer, varnished terracotta, circa 1938-40 (Lot 1) which sold above its low estimate for $37,500 to an institution. The biggest surprise among favorites was the unsold lot by Hale Woodruff, Gathering Storm (Blue Landscape), oil on linen canvas, circa 1958-60, that had an estimate of $60,000 - $90,000. Because this modernist canvas is an excellent example of Hale Woodruff's postwar painting, I thought that it would have been a museum purchase.

To view the final results from Sale 2323, visit: Swann Galleries catalogue.

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