Records for Charles Alston, Wadsworth Jarrell, Augusta Savage and More in December 2020 Sale of African American Art

The December 10, 2020, sale of African American Art was met with enthusiasm from collectors. The sale saw nine auction records set, as well as an auction debut from contemporary artist Tyrone Geter. The auction total reached $2.8 million bringing the house’s African American Art sale totals for the year to $9.2 million.

Charles Alston

Charles Alston, Black and White #8, oil on canvas, 1961. Sold for $197,000, a record for the artist.

Leading the December sale was Charles Alston’s Black and White #8, oil on canvas, 1961. The largest of the artist’s works yet to come to auction, the stunning abstraction came from an important series of eight works painted between 1959 and 1961. Black and White #8, earned a record for the artist at $197,000.

Abstract Works

Additional abstract works included Sir Frank Bowling’s Repose for SO, acrylic on canvas, 1976, an example of Bowling’s trailblazing mid-1970s series of “poured paintings,” which brought $93,750. Kenneth Victor Young and Thomas Sills returned to the Swann auction block after stellar outings in the January white-glove sale of the Johnson Publishing Company’s art collection. Young was present with a circa-2000 acrylic-on-canvas abstraction in fuchsia and blue, which sold for $81,250, and Sills was featured with New Born, oil on canvas, 1958, at $50,000. A 1972 acrylic-on-paper in dark blue-black and deep pink by Alma Thomas earned $62,500; and a 1978 color pastel, dry pigment and pencil work from Ed Clark’s Louisiana Series realized $60,000.

Augusta Savage & Sculpture

Augusta Savage, Gamin, plaster painted gold, circa 1929. Sold for $112,500, a record for the artist.

Augusta Savage earned a new auction record with the sale of her iconic 1929 sculpture Gamin. The work was acquired directly from the artist before it made its way across the auction block, selling for $112,500. Also representing sculptural works was Simone Leigh with Head, a 2004 glazed and painted fired stoneware work that brought $93,750.

Related Reading: Fine Sculpture by African-American Artists

Figurative Works

Wadsworth Jarrell, Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970. Sold for $125,000, a record for the artist.

Figurative works included Wadsworth Jarrell’s Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970, which brought a record for the artist at $125,000. Another record was earned with John N. Robinson’s 1952 oil-on-canvas portrait of his wife Gladys at $81,250. Romare Bearden was present with two collage works: Woman and Child, 1968, which sold for $173,000, and The Last of the Blue Devils, 1979, which sold for $100,000. Also of note was Emma Amos’s Water Baby, a 1987 acrylic and fabric collage with Kente cloth borders of from Amos’s body of work depicting women bathers, crossing the block at $100,000, the second-highest price at auction behind Let Me Off Uptown, which sold at Swann in 2019 for $125,000.

Related Reading: A Brief History of AfriCOBRA

“Despite the turbulent year, I am thrilled to see the continued growth of our sales, and the rising recognition of the great artists featured: from Harlem Renaissance masters Augusta Savage and Charles Alston to prized postwar painters Wadsworth Jarrell and John N. Robinson. We had a tremendous level of interest in the sale overall with an increasing diverse audience of individual collectors and institutions from around the world.”

Nigel Freeman, Director, African American Art

Consign with Swann.