Auction Highlights: African American Art — April 4, 2024

Swann Galleries’ spring 2024 African American Art sale will take place on Thursday, April 4. The auction will feature a standout selection of house favorites from Hughie Lee-Smith, Jacob Lawrence, and more, as well as a special evening session to benefit the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.

Lot 60: Hughie Lee-Smith, Ball Player, oil on canvas, 1970. Estimate $150,000 to $250,000.

The sale is led by a significant, mid-career oil painting by the great Hughie Lee-Smith—his Ball Player, 1970, a powerful painting, that epitomizes the artist’s evocative depictions of African American youth in desolate urban settings. Ball Player has been widely exhibited and was in the personal collection of the artist before being acquired by the current owners. Also on offer by Lee-Smith is Bather, oil on board, 1954, and Untitled (Study of a Woman in a Landscape), oil and pencil on canvas, 1991.

Harlem Renaissance

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The house is excited to bring to auction—for the first time since 2008—a complete set of Jacob Lawrence’s masterwork in printmaking, The Legend of John Brown. With this 1977 portfolio, Lawrence translated his series of John Brown paintings into 22 stunning color screenprints.

Lot 92: Jacob Lawrence, The Legend Of John Brown, Complete Portfolio with printed poem by Robert Hayden, and 22 color screenprints, 1977. $100,000 To $150,000.


Lot 27: Norman Lewis, Tenement, oil on masonite board, 1947. Estimate $120,000 to $180,000.

Abstraction is represented by an example of the earliest abstractions by Norman Lewis with Tenement, oil on board, 1947, as well as Howardena Pindell with Skowhegan Series: Lake Lillies for Karen, mixed-media, 1980-81, and Untitled (#72), mixed-media including punched graph papers, 1975. Also of note is Sam Gilliam’s 1967 acrylic, dye pigments and metallic powder work on canvas, and Alvin D. Loving, Jr.’s Wild Goose Lake, acrylic on canvas, 1981.

Lot 48: Sam Gilliam, Untitled, acrylic, dye pigments, & bronze and aluminum powder on cotton canvas, 1967. Estimate $80,000 to $120,000.
Lot 104: Howardena Pindell, Skowhegan Series: Lake Lillies For Karen, tempera, gouache, postcards, punched paper, nails, fluorescent paint, glitter and thread on board, 1980-81. Estimate $75,000 to $100,000.


Lot 117: Kermit Oliver, Hay Rolls, acrylic on masonite board, 1983. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.

Lee-Smith’s figurative work is offered alongside contemporary examples, including Kermit Oliver’s Hay Rolls, acrylic on board, 1983, a significant mid-career by this important Texas artist. Further works of note include Benny Andrews’s Time for Church, oil with painted canvas, lace collage and staples on canvas, 1999, and Charles L. Sallée Jr.’s Swingtime, oil on canvas, 1985.

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