Records & Results: Spring 2022 Auction of African American Art

The March 31, 2022 sale of African American Art Brings 10 Auction Records and 7 Auction Debuts

The spring 2022 offering of African American Art closed out the March auctions at Swann with an exceptional marathon sale bringing $3.6M and seeing an 89% sell-through rate with 214 of the 241 lots on offer finding buyers.

“The continued success of our African American Art auctions, now in our fifteenth year, proves the breadth of this market. I am especially pleased that we set a new auction record for Hughie Lee-Smith — finally eclipsing our own record with the sale of Slum Song, set in 2007. We also are thrilled to achieve the highest price for a work on paper by Ed Clark.”

Nigel Freeman, Director, African American Art

Hughie Lee-Smith

Hughie Lee-Smtih, Aftermath, oil on canvas, circa 1960. Sold for $365,000, a record for the artist.

Hughie Lee-Smith was the standout artist of the sale, with four works by the artist earning spots among the top 20 results of the auction, including the top lot with Aftermath — a record for Lee-Smith at $365,000. The 1960s work on canvas is an excellent example of Lee-Smith’s mid-career series of stark, desolate urban scenes with Surrealist undertones. In all, the 11 works by Lee-Smith in the sale, which span the breadth of the artist’s career, found buyers. Highlights include a 1937 sketch of a boy in charcoal ($11,875); Still Life with Nectarines, a 1982 oil-on-canvas ($45,000); and Quandary, a late-career oil-on-canvas from 1997 ($197,000).

Ed Clark

Ed Clark, Spatial Image III, dry pigment on paper, 1982. Sold for $341,000, a record for a work on paper by Clark.

Ed Clark’s monumental Spatial Image III set the phones and online platforms alike abuzz when it took its turn on the auction block. The 1982 dry-pigment abstraction — emblematic of Clark’s use of swaths of color that evoke chaos and control simultaneously — brought a record for a work on paper by the artist at $341,000.

Contemporary Art

The contemporary selection saw a strong performance with standout results for Mequitta Ahuja ($75,000), Michael A. Cummings ($47,500, an auction record), Freddie Styles ($42,500, an auction record), Mickalene Thomas ($40,000), and Belkis Ayón ($40,000) among others.

Related Reading: Artist Profile: Belkis Ayón

Additional Records: Lot 19 – Wilmer Jennings; Lot 72 – Inge Hardison; Lot 75 – Beuford Smith; Lot 95 – Joseph Holston; Lot 116 – Richard Wyatt, Jr.; Lot 170 – Joe Overstreet; Lot 190 – Willie Birch

Auction Debuts: Lot 28 – Vera Jackson; Lot 44 – Robert Cromartie; Lot 45 – Alvin Marriott; Lot 200 – Edward E. Hughes; Lot 201 – Anthony Liggins; Lot 220 – Kyra E. Hicks; Lot 237 – Accra Shepp