Records & Results: African American Art — October 19, 2023

Swann Galleries’ October 19 sale of African American Art proved consistent among new contemporary artists and auction house favorites. Regarding the auction, department director Nigel Freeman noted, “I’m very happy with the sale’s results, including high prices achieved across a broad spectrum of artists, from Edward Bannister to Simone Leigh.”

Abstract Art

Left: Lot 111: Sam Gilliam, Untitled, acrylic and metallic paint on draped polypropylene fabric, 1979. Sold for $197,000.

The sale was led by a 1979 draped canvas painting by Sam Gilliam at $197,000. The work came to auction with a strong provenance, having once been in the ex-collection of noted printmaker Lou Stovall after being acquired directly from the artist.

Additional abstract highlights included Alma Thomas’ Etude, acrylic on paper, 1968, at $161,000 and Transcendental, watercolor, 1965, at $149,000; Alvin D. Loving, Jr.’s Janice, acrylic on canvas, 1970, brought $149,000; and Romare Bearden’s The River Merchant’s Wife, oil on canvas, 1954, earned $118,750.

Sculpture & 3D Objects

Lot 194: Simone Leigh, Untitled, glazed terra cotta stoneware, circa 2011-12. Sold for $149,000.

Specialist Corey Serrant remarked on the strong results for sculptures in the auction, “Robust bidding and consistent sales led to a strong hammer during a relaxed market. There was strong interest in 3D objects ranging from early twentieth-century sculpture, midcentury assemblage, and contemporary works. Early ceramics from Simone Leigh, assemblage from Noah Purifoy, and bronze sculptures from Richmond Barthé were consistent to their market sales.” Simone Leigh’s glazed terra cotta stoneware cowrie shell, circa 2011-12, earned $149,000, and Noah Purifoy’s 1995 assemblage of 30 oil cans reached $18,750.

Early Works

Lot 2: Edward M. Bannister, At “Smith’s Palace,” Narragansett Bay, oil on canvas, circa 1881. Sold for $137,000.

Early works proved to be popular with Edward M. Bannister’s At “Smiths Palace,” Narragansett Bay, oil on canvas, circa 1881, at $137,000; and Henry Ossawa Tanner’s study Untitled (Flight Into Egypt), oil on thick cardstock, circa 1923, at $112,500.

Figurative Works

The auction was rounded out by a selection of figurative works, including Hughie Lee-Smith’s Untitled (Two Young Men on a Beach), oil on board, 1954 ($106,250), and Man on a Bench Reading, oil on canvas, 1998-99 ($87,500). Additional standout works included John Bigger’s Cotton Picker, conté crayon with gouache, 1951 ($68,750); Bisa Butler’s La Quinceañera, quilted and appliquéd fabric with lace collage, 2007 ($55,000); and Charles White, Waiting (Awaiting His Return), lithograph, 1946 ($55,000).