Records & Results: African-American Fine Art

Artist Records for Amos, Leigh, Lovelace O’Neal, Pindell & More


A painting on fabric of a young African American couple dancing by Emma Amos.
Lot 163: Emma Amos, Let Me Off Uptown, oil & photo transfer on canvas with metallic paint, glitter, collage and African fabric boarders, 1999-2000. Sold for $125,000, a record for the artist.


We saw strong results for African-American Fine Art on Thursday, April 4. Nigel Freeman, the house’s director of African-American Fine Art, noted,

“I was happy to see our department’s success from last year continue into 2019. It surpassed our last auction’s results, becoming our department’s second highest-grossing auction, and our third sale in a row to hammer at more than $3 million.”

The sale set twelve auction records and delivered successful auction debuts.


Contemporary Artists

Contemporary artists stood out, claiming six of the top prices in the sale, including Emma Amos, Simone Leigh and Howardena Pindell, who established new auction records.


Lot 171: Simone Leigh, Untitled, salt-fired stoneware, 2006. Sold for $93,750, a record for the artist.


Amos’s painting on fabric Let Me Off Uptown, 1999-2000, exceeded her previous auction record of $40,000, selling for $125,000; Hugo Boss Prize recipient Leigh garnered a record with a 2006 salt-fired stoneware vessel at $93,750; and Pindell’s 1980-81 mixed-media on paper collage, utilizing her signature hole-punched circles, reached $47,500.


A multicolored quilt with a painting of a sleeping couple on it, with a handwritten story, by Faith Ringgold.
Lot 134: Faith Ringgold, Sleeping: Lover’s Quilt #2, acrylic on canvas & pieced tie dyed and printed fabrics, 1986. Sold for $221,000.


Also of note was Faith Ringgold’s Sleeping: Lover’s Quilt #2, 1986, an example of the artist’s story quilts, which brought $221,000.


Frank Bowling & Sam Gilliam

Artists experimenting in color brought top prices, including Frank Bowling with In M. of M.W. III, 1980, an example of his poured painting series ($118,750).


An abstract splatter painting in green, orange, yellow with flecks of white, purple and blue by Sam Gilliam.
Lot 115: Sam Gilliam, Onion Skin III, acrylic on paper, 1975. Sold for $50,000.


Sam Gilliam, with the 1975 work on paper Onion Skin III ($50,000), Longing, 1993, an acrylic and polypropylene example of his raking technique ($81,250) as well as Snow Lane #22, 1996, acrylic and mixed-media paper collage, ($52,500).


Norman Lewis


An abstract painting in magenta and gray by Norman Lewis.
Lot 105: Norman Lewis, Block Island, oil on canvas, 1973-75. Sold for $389,000.


Norman Lewis led the sale with the 1973-75 oil on canvas Block Island, an impressive example of the artist’s 1970’s period inspired by his summers on the island, which brought $389,000.


An abstract painting in black, yellow and orange by Norman Lewis.
Lot 30: Norman Lewis, Shapes, oil on board, 1947. Sold for $70,000.


Also of note by Lewis, an early oil on masonite board from 1947, Shapes, sold for $70,000, and Blue Moon, a 1960 oil on paper based on the phases of the moon, at $62,500. Every work by Lewis found a buyer, almost universally surpassing their high estimate.


Works on Paper


Charcoal drawing of an enchained figure by Charles White.
Lot 35: Charles White, Caliban, charcoal with crayon, circa 1950. Sold for $221,000.


Works on paper included Charles White’s Caliban, a circa 1950 charcoal drawing of Shakespeare’s character in The Tempest, ($221,000).


Print on paper of four women facing outward holding hands with an image of the Civil Rights protests in the middle by Elizabeth Catlett.
Lot 102: Elizabeth Catlett, Unititled (Civil Rights Protest), mixed media on paper, 1974. Sold for $118,750.


Elizabeth Catlett’s 1974 experimental multimedia work Untitled (Civil Rights Protest) ($118,750); the collage Early Morning, 1968-69, by Romare Bearden ($185,000); and Psychic Fragments #3, 1988, mixed media with watercolor and ink, by Jack Whitten ($55,000).


The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was well represented in all mediums:


An abstract screenprint of a couple dancing to jazz music by William H. Johnson.
Lot 24: William H. Johnson, Jitterbugs V, color screenprint, circa 1941-42. Sold for $118,750.


William H. Johnson’s circa 1941-42 color screenprint Jitterbugs V made its auction debut at $118,750, tying the previous record for the artist.


A bust sculpture of a young boy in a news cap.
Lot 5: August Savage, Gamin, plaster painted dark brown, circa 1929. Sold for $68,750.


Augusta Savage’s sculpture in plaster Gamin, circa 1929, matched the artist’s standing record at $68,750. A portfolio of 18 silver and sepia-toned prints by James VanDerZee sold for $52,500.


Records & Firsts at Auction


A painting of a man looking out onto a desert landscape by Kermit Oliver.
Lot 112: Kermit Oliver, Dusk, acrylic on board, 1972. Sold for $112,500, a record for the artist.


Kermit Oliver’s Dusk, acrylic on board, 1972, brought a record for the artist at $112,500. Additional artist records included Walter Sanford, Charles McGee, Freddie Styles, Peter Bradley, Robert James Reed, Jr. and Victor Seach.


An abstract painting in greens, purples, tans, and blue by Mary Lovelace O'Neal.
Lot 164: Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did, oil & mixed media on canvas, 1995. Sold for $40,000, a record for the artist.


Mary Lovelace O’Neal’s Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did, oil and mixed media, 1995, sold for $40,000, the first significant work by the artist to come to auction. Other debuts included Sonya Clark’s 2013 sculptural work in cotton thread and combs, Albers #1 ($9,100).


Complete Results.

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