Hughie Lee-Smith and Jacob Lawrence star at Swann’s African American Art sale April 4

Hughie Lee-Smith, Ball Player, estimated at $150,000-$250,000 at Swann.

NEW YORK — Swann GalleriesAfrican American Art sale scheduled for Thursday, April 4 includes a standout selection of house favorites, including Hughie Lee-Smith and Jacob Lawrence, and features a special evening session to benefit the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. The catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale is led by a significant mid-career work by Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999),  Ball Player, a 1970 painting that epitomizes the artist’s evocative depictions of African American youth in desolate urban settings. Ball Player has been widely exhibited and was in the personal collection of the artist before being acquired by the current owners. It carries an estimate of $150,000-$250,000.

Kermit Oliver’s Hay Rolls, a 1983 acrylic on board estimated at $100,000-$150,000, is a key mid-career work by this important Texas artist.

The house is excited to bring to auction for the first time since 2008 a complete set of Jacob Lawrence’s masterwork in printmaking, The Legend of John Brown. With this 1977 portfolio, Lawrence translated his series of John Brown paintings into 22 stunning color screen prints. The portfolio comes to auction with an estimate of $100,000-$150,000.

Abstract art is represented by an example of the earliest such works by Norman Lewis with Tenement, an oil on board from 1947 that has an estimate of $120,000-$180,000.

Two lots of family portraits by slavery descendant Sarah Ray Bryant illuminate Black history at D. L. Straight Feb. 10

Set of three portraits by Sarah Ray Bryant, estimated at $1,000-$3,000 at D. L. Straight.

STURBRIDGE, Mass. — Nelson Ray (1820-1882) was born into slavery in Kentucky and eventually wound up as the property of John and Velinda Ray of Missouri. When Velinda passed away in 1846, Ray was emancipated, and in 1852, he headed west to participate in the California Gold Rush.

As was indicative of the times, Ray’s wife Lucinda and their eight children remained as chattel. Ray struck it rich while working in Placerville, California, and immediately purchased the freedom of Lucinda and three of their children. The other five had been sold off, and only in 1877 would the family be reunited in California.

Nelson’s daughter Sarah (1854-1888) is a fascinating member of the Ray family. She only lived 34 years, but in that time she created a number of artworks, mostly portraits, of her family members and other acquaintances. A horde of 15 of her artworks were discovered in Florida by a real estate developer who found them abandoned in an estate clean-out. They eventually landed at CRN Auctions in November 2022, where they hammered for an incredible $60,000 ($73,200 with buyer’s premium).

D. L. Straight Auctions has two grouped lots of Sarah Ray Bryant’s naive-style portraits in its Saturday, February 10 sale. The first lot consists of three portraits, estimated at $1,000-$3,000. The subjects are all women and the images range in size from small to large. The second lot has two portraits, both with completely featureless faces, an anomaly in Sarah’s body of work. It may be that these paintings were left unfinished at the time of her death. The two-piece lot is also estimated at $1,000-$3,000.

Joyful Ernie Barnes painting headlines Swann sale, April 6

Ernie Barnes, ‘Daddy,’ estimated at $250,000-$350,000. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
Ernie Barnes, ‘Daddy,’ estimated at $250,000-$350,000. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
Ernie Barnes, ‘Daddy,’ estimated at $250,000-$350,000. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

NEW YORK — Swann Auction Galleries‘ spring offering of African American Art will take place on Thursday, April 6, featuring a broad range of scarce and significant art from the Harlem Renaissance to the Post-War and Contemporary periods. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Norman Lewis abstract could achieve $600K at Swann, Oct. 6

Norman Lewis, ‘Untitled (Abstraction in Orange),’ estimated at $400,000-$600,000
Norman Lewis, ‘Untitled (Abstraction in Orange),’ estimated at $400,000-$600,000

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.

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Swann offers important African American art in March 31 sale

Mequitta Ahuja, ‘Bramble,’ est. $30,000-$40,000
Mequitta Ahuja, ‘Bramble,’ est. $30,000-$40,000
Mequitta Ahuja, ‘Bramble,’ est. $30,000-$40,000

NEW YORK — On Thursday, March 31, Swann Galleries will hold its next sale of African American Art. The spring offering will feature many scarce and significant Modern, Post-war and Contemporary artworks, including 28 lots from a distinguished private collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Hughie Lee-Smith found art lurking in loneliness

This circa-1961 Hughie Lee-Smith painting, ‘Rooftops,’ achieved $55,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019. Image courtesy of Treadway and LiveAuctioneers.
This circa-1961 Hughie Lee-Smith painting, ‘Rooftops,’ achieved $55,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019 at Treadway. Image courtesy of Treadway and LiveAuctioneers.
This circa-1961 Hughie Lee-Smith painting, ‘Rooftops,’ achieved $55,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2019. Image courtesy of Treadway and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — Isolation and solitude are pervasive themes in the paintings of Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999), an African American artist who often painted figures with their backs to the viewer or set them against desolate backdrops with foreboding skies. Grappling with existential and surrealist themes, Lee-Smith explored his place in society and the art world at a time when only white male artists were accepted as full professionals, able to choose their subject matter as they pleased, while Black artists were pushed to document the Black experience.

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Woodruff, Catlett set records at Swann African American art sale

Hale Woodruff, ‘Carnival,’ sold for $665,000, a record for an abstract work by Woodruff
Hale Woodruff, ‘Carnival,’ sold for $665,000, a record for an abstract work by Woodruff
Hale Woodruff, ‘Carnival,’ sold for $665,000, a record for an abstract work by Woodruff

NEW YORK — “We are beyond thrilled with the results of the October 7 auction, which was a historic sale for Swann Galleries: our first auction to hammer over $4 million. Great excitement about our sale offerings resulted in auction record prices for eleven artists, including Belkis Ayon, Elizabeth Catlett and Howardena Pindell, and significant prices for many others, including Edward Bannister, Richmond Barthé and Hale Woodruff,” noted Nigel Freeman, director of African American Art at Swann Galleries. The sale totaled more than $5 million, including buyer’s premium.

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Quilts by African American textile artists showcased in Sept. 30 auction

Loretta Pettway Bennett, ‘DNA,’ est. $11,000-$13,000
Loretta Pettway Bennett, ‘DNA,’ est. $11,000-$13,000
Loretta Pettway Bennett, ‘DNA,’ est. $11,000-$13,000

NEW YORK – On Thursday, September 30, starting at 6 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale of Quilts, Gee’s Bend & Textiles with Shelly Zegart, an acclaimed quilt curator, expert and author. The 163-lot sale features many works by African American textile artists, among them the quilters of Gee’s Bend, a hamlet in Alabama known for its exquisite textiles. Also co-curating the sale is Clifford Wallach, an expert in tramp art, folk art, and Americana. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Swann African American art sale makes history, sets records

Bisa Butler, ‘Nandi and Natalie (Friends),’ which sold for $75,000
Bisa Butler, ‘Nandi and Natalie (Friends),’ which sold for $75,000
Bisa Butler, ‘Nandi and Natalie (Friends),’ which sold for $75,000

NEW YORK — Swann Galleries’ spring offering of African American Art on April 22 was the second-highest-grossing sale in the 13-year history of the department, with its highest number of participants to date. “I am thrilled to see the continued growth in our African American art auctions with a tremendous sale. Three hundred and ninety eight registered bidders — not counting those on other platforms — competed for eight hours to bid on 220 lots. We set 13 artist records and saw high prices all around for many artists,” noted department director, Nigel Freeman. Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.

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