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This large-scale prime-period work by Purvis Young (1943-2010) sold for $350,000 at Akiba Galleries on December 6.

Purvis Young new world auction record set with $437K sale at Akiba

DANIA BEACH, Fla. — Eclipsing all previous prices for the artist, a large-scale prime-period work by Purvis Young (1943-2010) sold for a remarkable $350,000 ($437,500 with buyer’s premium) at Akiba Galleries on December 6. Estimated at up to $10,000, the 1974 painting by the Florida Outsider artist was competed for by eight phone and internet bidders up to $200,000, with two bidders taking it from there.

Date, size and subject matter were key to the appeal of this work, which was consigned by the estate of Miami businessman and philanthropist Robert A. Mann.

The picture, painted in house paint on a 4ft-square sheet of shipping crate plywood, has many typical Young motifs. However, Alexander Anapolsky at Akiba Galleries learned that the subject matter is one that particularly resonates with major collectors.

Young lived his entire life in the Overtown area of Miami and was deeply upset when, in the late 1960s, his neighborhood of African American and Caribbean immigrants was effectively divided to make way for an overpass bridging more affluent sections of Miami. The painting, which shows a townscape centered by a weeping quasi-religious figure, chronicles this unhappiness as the town was split in two.

It also dates from the era of Young’s renowned Goodbread Alley Mural. From 1971, inspired by the Black activist murals in Chicago and Detroit, Young began painting regularly, hanging his paintings ‘salon style’ on the boarded-up facades of Overtown’s disused shops. A once-thriving row of bakeries that locals called Goodbread Alley became his street-level gallery. It remained an outdoor art installation until 1974, when it was finally dismantled by city officials.

Purvis Young has been part of the cultural landscape of South Florida for many years and an art market name for close to two decades.

In the late 1990s, Florida contemporary art collectors Don and Mera Rubell acquired the contents of his studio — more than 3,000 works — and donated many paintings to museums and universities across the country. A current exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art titled Purvis Young: Redux is based on the 91 works added to its permanent collection in 2004.

Since that time, a large number of Young’s works have appeared on the market. More than 3,000 have sold on LiveAuctioneers alone. The vast majority of pieces bring under $5,000, with the previous high for the artist, the painting on plywood titled People with Halos Above City – having sold for $35,000 ($43,750 including premium) at Christie’s in 2020. It, too, was another large-scale, mid-career work, dating from 1973.

The $350,000 hammer price, close to 10 times the previous auction high for the artist, elevates Young from the financial levels of outsider art into the contemporary art sphere. Alexander Anapolsky believes it will be a game-changer. “This will definitely change the market going forward. Experts and collectors that we have spoken to, have all confirmed that in the next 12 months we will see more sales in this price range.”