9 New Auction Records in Fall 2019 Auction of African-American Fine Art
Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture Realizes $389,000—A Record Price for Any Work by the Artist
The October 29 auction of African-American Fine resulted in nine new auction records, supported by a room brimming with bidders—in fact, there were just enough chairs for everyone. Most notably, Swann set a new record for Elizabeth Catlett with the carved mahogany sculpture Seated Woman, 1962, at $389,000. The artist’s previous record was also held by Swann from the 2009 sale of Homage to My Young Black Sisters, 1968, for $288,000. A monumental, much-anticipated canvas by Kenneth Victor Young realized $233,000, a record for the artist.
“High prices and new auction records for Elizabeth Catlett,Allan Rohan Crite, Sargent Johnsonand William H. Johnson—all important figures from the first generation of modern African-American artists—shows the growing breadth of the African-American art market. Elizabeth Catlett was especially deserving of a new record, and Seated Woman was the perfect work to do it, embodying all the wonderful qualities found in her wood sculpture. Another trend was the rising popularity and value of the paintings of Hughie Lee-Smith and Walter Williams—two significant mid-century painters Swann has specialized in. We were also excited to set a new record for Kenneth Victor Young, more than doubling his previous auction record with his largest painting to come to auction, setting the bar for his emerging secondary market.”
Founded by Nigel Freeman in 2006, the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Galleries handles a range of material spanning the late nineteenth century to the Harlem Renaissance, as well as modern and contemporary art. Sales consistently break auction records for well-known artists and establish records for artists with no previous auction history.
Over the years the department has handled exceptional single-owner collections: