African-American Fine Art: June 2020 Highlights

At Auction June 4, 2020*

*This auction has been rescheduled from its original date, and will now be held on Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 1:00 PM ET, previewing online only. The auction itself will be held live and will be conducted remotely by Swann auctioneers taking bids from multiple platforms. At this time, our exhibition and auction location at 104 East 25th Street is closed.

Earliest Work by David Hammons to Come to Auction

From the postwar period, a top lot bound to garner attention is an untitled mixed-paper collage on masonite board by David Hammons, 1965. The work, a simple but powerful image of two raised, clenched fists with shackles blending into the background, comes from the collection of the artist’s 1964 Los Angeles City College roommate, and will be the earliest work of art by Hammons to come to auction.

Lot 69: David Hammons, Untitled paper collage and tempera on masonite board, 1965. $120,000 to $180,000.

Post-War Paintings & Drawings: Norman Lewis, Vincent D. Smith, & Walter Williams

The sale will also include fine postwar paintings by Edward Loper, Haywood “Bill” Rivers, Walter Williams, Norman Lewis, and Vincent D. Smith (read our artist profiles on Vincent D. Smith and Norman Lewis).

Lot 37: Norman Lewis, Untitled (Processional Composition), oil and ink on paper, 1952. $40,000 to $60,000.
Lot 41: Walter Williams, Untitled (Boy in a Field), oil and sand on masonite board, circa 1956-59. $35,000 to $50,000.

Jacob Lawrence’s Cutting Logs #51

A top lot in the sale is Jacob Lawrence’s scarce Cutting Logs #51, gouache, tempera and watercolor on paper, 1942. Lawrence intended to paint a series depicting the rural life of African Americans over a six-month period in Virginia. He and his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight, had a change of heart, returning early. Lawrence never completed the series, though works from it made it to institutional collections—from this same series is Firewood #55, in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Lot 21: Jacob Lawrence, Cutting Logs #51, gouache, watercolor and ink, 1942. $250,000 to $350,000.

1960s-70s Paintings: Ernie Barnes, John Biggers, & Romare Bearden

Lot 50: John Biggers, Women, Ghana, oil on masonite board, circa 1960. $120,000 to $180,000.
Lot 74: Ernie Barnes, In the Beginning, acrylic, with artist-built frame, circa 1970. $30,000 to $40,000.
Lot 93: Romare Bearden, Aphrodite, collage and acrylic with pencil and ink on board, 1973. $40,000 to $60,000.

Sculpture: Richmond Barthé & Elizabeth Catlett

A modernist portrait of a young boy, by Sargent Johnson, is a painted terracotta version of the artist’s Sammy, a porcelain head that was illustrated on the cover of the 1928 Harmon Foundation exhibition brochure. Other highlights include an elegant 25-inch carved sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett, 1975, directly acquired from the artist by its owner. 

Lot 9: Richmond Barthé, Boy with a Broom, painted plaster, 1929. $60,000 to $90,000.
Lot 10: Richmond Barthé, Feral Benga, cast bronze with dark borwn patina, modeled in 1935, cast in 1986. $40,000 to $60,000.
Lot 99: Elizabeth Catlett, Untitled (Standing Woman), carved mahogany, mounted on a wooden base, 1975. $100,000 to $150,000.

Contemporary Art: Sam Gilliam & Simone Leigh

Lot 176: Simone Leigh, Untitled, salt fired stoneware, 2001. $60,000 to $90,000.
Lot 158: Sam Gilliam, Horses Upside Down, acrylic and polypropylene on collaged canvas, 1998. $80,000 to $120,000.

Previewing Online Only

This auction will be held live and conducted remotely by Swann auctioneers taking bids from multiple platforms. While there will not be bidding in the room, we will be accepting order bids, and interested buyers will be able to participate live online via the Swann Galleries App. The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play, and it can also be accessed on a desktop at Please note: limited phone bidding will be available for this auction. Phone bidding registrations will close the day before the sale at 4pm.

At this time, our exhibition and auction location at 104 East 25th Street is closed to the public. In lieu of a physical exhibition, you may request condition reports from our specialists. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Specialist for the Auction

Nigel Freeman, African-American Fine Art Specialist

(212) 254-4710 ext. 33

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