Wednesday, December 16, 2015

RESULTS: Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2402

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2402 held on December 15th brought in $3,117,132 with buyer’s premium, surpassing its pre-sale high estimate ($2,911,300) for the sale as a whole. Of the 150 lots that were offered at auction, 117 sold (78% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Swann Galleries’ Director of African-American Fine Art, “This sale was our department's best auction to date­–with our highest level of sales and a new record price at auction for Norman Lewis with the sale of his 1958 Untitled oil on canvas for $965,000. It smashed our previous record and demonstrates the rising stature and value of this important American artist. Also notable was a record for the highest price for a non-sculpture work by Elizabeth Catlett with Friends, her first painting to come to auction. ”

Select highlights from the African-American Fine Art (Sale 2402) are featured in this post, focusing on those lots which surpassed their pre-sale high estimates. All price quotes for art sold include buyer's premium.

Lot 49  NORMAN LEWIS (1909 - 1979)
Untitled. (Oil on linen canvas, circa 1958. 1295x1625 mm; 51x64 inches. Signed in oil, lower left.)

This masterful mid-century composition is a newly discovered and important example of Norman Lewis' painting. This previously unrecorded painting reveals yet another dimension to his late 1950s body of abstraction. Lot 49 had a pre-sale high auction estimate of $350,000; it sold for $965,000, setting an auction record for the artist. 

Lot 85  ALMA W. THOMAS (1891 - 1978)
Fall Atmosphere. (Acrylic on cotton canvas, 1971. 457x610 mm; 18x24 inches. Signed and dated in acrylic, lower right recto. Signed, titled, numbered "(10)" and inscribed "1530 15th Street, N.W." in orange ink, verso.) 

Fall Atmosphere is a wonderful example of Alma Thomas' vertical stripe abstractions from the late 1960s and early 1970s. This study of light and color is distinguished by its palette of beautiful fall colors. Lot 85, Fall Atmosphere, had a high estimate of $75,000; it sold to a collector for $87,500. 

Lot 86  SAM GILLIAM (1933 - )
Scatter Pisces. (
Acrylic and flocking on cotton canvas, with canvas collage, 1973. 1016x762x51 mm; 40x30x2 inches, with beveled edges. Signed, titled and dated in ink, upper right verso.)

This richly textured painting is a fascinating and scarce example of Sam Gilliam's work between the stained beveled-edge paintings of 1970-72 and the collaged paintings of mid-1970s. Scatter Pisces, Lot 86, had a high estimate of $25,000; it sold to a collector for $67,500.

Lot 104   BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945 - )
Tuff Tony. (Oil and acrylic on linen canvas, 1978. 1829x1220 mm; 72x48 inches. Signed in oil, upper right.)

Tuff Tony is an excellent example of Barkley Hendricks' striking portraits, and one of his most widely exhibited paintings. Tuff Tony embodies the look and attitude that Barkley Hendricks famously captured in his late 1970s life-size figures against solid color backgrounds. Lot 104 sold for $365,000 to a collector, selling for twice its high pre-sale estimate of $180,000. This sale tied the auction record for Barkley Hendricks (Swann Galleries, April 2, 2015). 

Lot 125    HUGHIE LEE-SMITH (1915 - 1999)
Performers. (
Oil on linen canvas, 1990. 1168x1016 mm; 46x40 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.)

Performers is a significant later work by the artist, and the largest painting yet by Hughie Lee-Smith to be offered at auction. The evocative painting demonstrates Lee-Smith's consistent exploration of narrative and identity in a 1990s series of paintings with figures on stage or in a theatre. This work has a high estimate of $90,000, and sold to a collector for $143,000.

SEE Final Results for all lots in Sale 2402

Live online bidding was available via Thanks to Swann Galleries for the use of images and written material in the catalogue.

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