Monday, April 11, 2016

RESULTS: Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2409

The most recent Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale was held on April 7, 2016. Sale 2409 brought in $1,831,747 with buyer’s premium, exceeding its pre-sale low estimate of $1,333,000 by nearly $500,000. Of the 121 lots that were offered at auction, 99 sold (81% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Swann Galleries’ Director of African-American Fine Art, “This sale continued to build on many of our department’s strengths. Burgeoning interest in post-war abstraction continues to rise, with record prices for Frank Bowling and Felrath Hines, as well as high prices for works by Norman Lewis and Sam Gilliam. This sale we saw success for works on paper by Norman Lewis: Untitled (Processional Figure Composition) set a record for a work on paper by the artist, and several other lots eclipsed their high estimates.”

Select highlights from Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2409 are featured in this post, focusing on a selection of the top selling lots in the auction. All price quotes for art sold include buyer's premium.

Lot 94    Faith Ringgold (1930 - )
Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge

Acrylic on canvas and painted, dye and pieced fabric, 1988; 68½" x 68¼". From the 1988 Woman On A Bridge Series.

Image: Swann Galleries

Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge is a joyous and fantastic image of young girls playing together in this popular jumping rope game. They float elevated above the iconic bridge with the facades of brownstones of the city of San Francisco. This lot had a pre-sale estimate of $150,000 - 250,000; it surpassed its low estimate, and was acquired by a collector for $209,000. 

Lot 18  Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)  

Oil on masonite board, 1947; 17¾"x 14¾". Signed and dated in oil, lower right. Image: Swann Galleries

This beautiful oil reveals the range of Norman Lewis' early experimentation within the abstract idiom in the late 1940s. In 1947 Norman Lewis did a series of these small abstract paintings on board. Two other paintings from this series - Florence and Shapes - were included in the exhibition From the Margins: Lee Krasner / Norman Lewis, 1945 - 1952 at the Jewish Museum. Lot 18, Untitled, had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 - 90,000; this piece surpassed its high estimate, selling to a dealer for $149,000.  

Lot 38  Hughie Lee-Smith (1915 - 1999)
Untitled (Young Man in a Slum).

Oil on linen canvas, circa 1960; 26"x 36". Signed in oil, lower right. Image: Swann Galleries

This striking and large canvas is a wonderful example of Hughie Lee-Smith's mid-career painting. It appears very closely related to his Slum Lad, circa 1960, in the collection of the Flint Institute of Arts. This painting depicts the same young man a in long-sleeved white shirt, and the same background of crumbling urban decay. Here the figure has turned and is walking away from the viewer - while in Slum Lad he is facing the viewer. Young Man in a Slum, lot 38, sold to a collector for $106,250; it exceeded its pre-sale estimate of  $40,000 - 60,000.

Lot 84  Sam Gilliam (1933 - )
Rondo IX.

Acrylic and canvas collage on cotton canvas, 1983; 44" x 60" with beveled edges. Signed, titled and dated in acrylic, center verso. Image: Swann Galleries
This large painting is an excellent example of Sam Gilliam's Rondo series, a breakthrough new series of paintings in the early 1980s. Thirteen panels from this series were hung together in the rotunda of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in his 1983 solo exhibition Modern Painters at the Corcoran: Sam Gilliam. Rondo IX had an estimate of $50,000 - 75,000; it sold to a dealer for $93,750. 

Lot 32     Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)
Untitled (Processional Figure Composition).

Oil, pen and ink on cream wove paper, 1956; 26" x 40" inches. Signed and dated "June, 1956" in ink, lower left. Image: Swann Galleries
This complex and expressive work on paper is a superb example of Norman Lewis' evolving calligraphy of "little figures" in the mid-1950s. Lot 32, an untitled piece, had an estimate of $40,000 - 60,000; it sold to a dealer for $87,500, which was a record for a work on paper for Norman Lewis.

Lot 87   Frank Bowling (1936 - )
Irv Sandler's Visit.

Acrylic on cotton canvas, 1977; 46½" x 28". The artist's name spray-painted with stencil, lower left verso. Titled, inscribed and dated "27 Aug. 1977" in purple ink, upper right and lower left verso. Image: Swann Galleries
This richly colored and sumptuous abstraction by Frank Bowling is the first canvas from his 1970s series of "poured paintings" to come to auction. Beginning in New York in 1973, the artist used a tilting board platform to controlled the flow and descent of the acrylic paint vertically down the canvas. This lot sold to a collector for $81,250; it had an estimate of $35,000 - 50,000. In this sale, lot 87 was an auction record for Frank Bowling.

Lot 17   Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)
Untitled (Figurative Abstraction).

Oil on linen canvas, 1945; 28"x 17". Signed and dated in oil, lower left. Image: Swann Galleries
 This intriguing, modernist composition is the earliest abstract painting by Norman Lewis to come to auction. 1945 is the first full year of his foray into abstraction, and his oil paintings from that year are very scarce. Norman Lewis was painting linear figurations with diagonals and curves, bisecting vertical lines and grids - abstracting figures in the city. Figurative Abstraction had an estimate of $75,000 - 100,000, and it sold to a dealer for $75,000.

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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