“I was happy to see our department’s success from last year continue into 2019. It surpassed our last auction’s results, becoming our department’s second highest-grossing auction, and our third sale in a row to hammer at more than $3 million.”
The sale set twelve auction records and delivered successful auction debuts.
Contemporary artists stood out, claiming six of the top prices in the sale, including Emma Amos, Simone Leigh and Howardena Pindell, who established new auction records.
Also of note was Faith Ringgold’s Sleeping: Lover’s Quilt #2, 1986, an example of the artist’s story quilts, which brought $221,000.
Frank Bowling & Sam Gilliam
Artists experimenting in color brought top prices, including Frank Bowling with In M. of M.W. III, 1980, an example of his poured painting series ($118,750).
Sam Gilliam, with the 1975 work on paper Onion Skin III ($50,000), Longing, 1993, an acrylic and polypropylene example of his raking technique ($81,250) as well as Snow Lane #22, 1996, acrylic and mixed-media paper collage, ($52,500).
Norman Lewis led the sale with the 1973-75 oil on canvas Block Island, an impressive example of the artist’s 1970’s period inspired by his summers on the island, which brought $389,000.
Also of note by Lewis, an early oil on masonite board from 1947, Shapes, sold for $70,000, and Blue Moon, a 1960 oil on paper based on the phases of the moon, at $62,500. Every work by Lewis found a buyer, almost universally surpassing their high estimate.
Works on Paper
Works on paper included Charles White’s Caliban, a circa 1950 charcoal drawing of Shakespeare’s character in The Tempest, ($221,000).
Elizabeth Catlett’s 1974 experimental multimedia work Untitled (Civil Rights Protest) ($118,750); the collageEarly Morning, 1968-69, by Romare Bearden ($185,000); and Psychic Fragments #3, 1988, mixed media with watercolor and ink, by Jack Whitten ($55,000).
The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was well represented in all mediums:
William H. Johnson’s circa 1941-42 color screenprint Jitterbugs V made its auction debut at $118,750, tying the previous record for the artist.
Augusta Savage’s sculpture in plaster Gamin, circa 1929, matched the artist’s standing record at $68,750. A portfolio of 18 silver and sepia-toned prints by James VanDerZee sold for $52,500.
Mary Lovelace O’Neal’s Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did, oil and mixed media, 1995, sold for $40,000, the first significant work by the artist to come to auction. Other debuts included Sonya Clark’s 2013 sculptural work in cotton thread and combs, Albers #1 ($9,100).