Records & Results: African American Art — April 4, 2024

Swann Galleries’ April 4, 2024 sale of African American Art brought crowds back to the sale room with a selection of standout modernist works alongside a contemporary selection sold to benefit the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. The auction earned $3.4 million with an 82% sell-through rate by lot. The sale established seven records and saw four market debuts.

“We are extremely pleased with the strong results of our spring sale. It is very satisfying to see a rising demand for the figurative modern and postwar masters whose auction market Swann developed; including Benny Andrews, Richmond Barthé, Aaron Douglas and Hughie Lee-Smith. The great interest we see in exceptional works by lesser artists like Paul Keene, Rose Piper and Renée Stout also demonstrates the breadth of our market.”

Nigel Freeman, Director of African American Art

Artist Records

Rose Piper, Two Nuns on a Subway Begging Blood Back to Back (Subway Nuns), oil on canvas, 1947. Sold for $149,000.

Artist records from the top fifteen lots sold included Benny Andrews with Time for Church, oil on canvas, 1999, at $203,000; one of four surviving 1940s paintings by Rose Piper—Subway Nuns, oil on canvas, 1947—at $149,000; and Paul F. Keene, Jr. with a vibrant 1953 painting that combines modernism and the Afro-Caribbean imagery Keene encountered in Haiti, at $87,500. Additional artist records included those for Carrol Sockwell, Rene Stout, and Bernie Casey.

Renée Stout, Untitled (Pittsburgh), oil on canvas, 1983. Sold for $18,750.

Auction Debuts

The sale boasted four auction debuts with Adebunmi Gbadebo, Joseph Lofton, Adama Delphine FawunduDianne Smith.

Additional Highlights & Records

Additional sale highlights included print records a complete portfolio of Jacob Lawrence’s The Legend of John Brown, 1977, which brought $173,000; and Aaron Douglas’s extremely scarce proof impression woodcut of O, Lord!, circa 1926, at $100,000. Kermit Oliver’s Hay Rolls, acrylic on board, 1983, tied the previous record set by Swann at $112,000, and Hughie Lee-Smith’s Ball Player, oil on canvas, 1970, earned the second highest price for the artist at $341,000.