NEW YORK — Swann Galleries’ Thursday, October 6 sale of African American Art offers a selection of the best in the genre as the house marks its 15th year of dedicated auctions to work by African American and Black artists. The fall 2022 sale will present a survey of American art history with art by Black artists ranging from late 19th-century artist Henry Ossawa Tanner through the current era with Chakaia Booker. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Headlining the auction is a bright and energetic 1967 abstract work in orange by Norman Lewis, which carries an estimate of $400,000-$600,000. The oil on canvas comes from the late 1960s period when Lewis created a series of paintings depicting abstracted jazz musicians — an important moment coming between his black and white Civil Rights and Klan images of the early to mid-1960s and the Sea Change series in the 1970s. Additional works by Lewis include an early oil on canvas from 1947, estimated at $120,000-$180,000, and Joiners, a 1954 watercolor and ink drawing that has an estimate of $30,000-$40,000.
Further important works in abstraction from the 1960s to 1990s include Landscape, a 1967 oil on canvas by Hale Woodruff, estimated at $150,000-$250,000; Romare Bearden’s 1959 painting Wine Star, estimated at $150,000-$250,000; Sam Gilliam’s Horses Upside Down, a 1998 acrylic and polypropylene on canvas with an estimate of $120,000-$180,000; Charles Alston’s Black and White #3 (Astral #3), an oil on canvas from 1961, estimated at $100,000-$150,000; and Cliff Joseph’s 1970 work Rise People Rise, with an estimate of $35,000-$50,000.
A selection of tooled-leather paintings by Winfred Rembert includes his 2013 piece The Book That Couldn’t Be Read, estimated at $10,000-$15,000; Winfred Rembert and Class of 1959, created in 1999 and estimated at $25,000-$35,000; and Jeff’s Cafe & Room and Zeb’s Shoe Shine, dating to 1998 and having an estimate of $25,000-$35,000. Rembert’s 2021 biography, told by Erin I. Kelly, Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Fabric-based artists on offer include Bisa Butler with Sea Island Woman, an intricate 2007 quilted work referencing the Gullah people of South Carolina, estimated at $40,000-$60,000; Xenobia Bailey with Think, a 2008 hand-crocheted study for her MTA Hudson Yards work, estimated at $12,000-$18,000; and Michael Cummings with Freedom, a 2013 quilted and applique piece depicting a civil rights worker singing for freedom with lyrics and quotations surrounding them. Its estimate is $12,000-$18,000.
Modernist highlights include Westchester Graduation Ball, a 1951 brush-and-ink drawing by Jacob Lawrence, estimated at $50,000-$75,000; Domestic Worker, a scarce print by Elizabeth Catlett, created at the Taller de Grafica Popular upon her move to Mexico in 1946 and the first she printed there, estimated at $20,000-$30,000; and Folk Singer, a 1957 print by Charles White, which reinterprets his iconic ink drawing from the same year, Folk Singer (Voices of Jericho: Portrait of Harry Belafonte). This last is estimated at $20,000-$30,000. Sculptures from the era feature a marble carving by Marion Perkins, estimated at $30,000-$40,000, and a significant welded steel sculpture by Harold Cousins, estimated at $30,000-$40,000.
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