Brill collection of outsider art enters the spotlight at Heritage March 13

Clementine Hunter, 'Mustard Jar with Flowers', estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Heritage.

DALLAS — Billed as the “Brill Collection,” Heritage has announced Outsider Art, a small, 70-lot event scheduled for Wednesday, March 13. The catalog is now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Best remembered for her amazing output (estimated at 10,000) of paintings in her life, Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) was one of the first recognized members of the outsider art movement. Only starting to paint in her fifties, Hunter began selling her works for 25 cents, but by the time of her passing, she was nationally recognized. This repurposed Pommery Mustard clay jar has been painted and decorated with floral touches by Hunter, and comes with provenance directly from the artist. It is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.

Baptist minister and artist Howard Finster (1916-2001) has 12 items in the sale. Like many, he labored in obscurity for decades, toiling at his Paradise Garden museum that eventually housed 46,000 works. He gained fame when he created album cover artwork for REM and the Talking Heads. This group of five cutout figures dates to 1990-1999 and are together estimated at $2,000-$3,000.

Miami’s own Purvis Young (1943-2010) created works that were part painting and part collage. His works reside in the collections of many celebrities and have been widely exhibited. The sale features 12 pieces by Young, including Cityscape (Giant), a mixed-media on joined panel measuring 25.5 by 35.5in. It carries an estimate of $2,000-$3,000.

Lee Godie (1908-1994) lived an inexplicable life, sleeping in freezing Chicago temperatures or in transient hotels, despite having money and better options available. Her figural works are classically naive, with large eyes being a defining element. Woman with a Headband is an undated mixed-media on board signed ‘By Godie’. It is estimated at $1,000-$1,500.

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

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

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.”

Bid Smart: Self-taught artist Joseph Yoakum, king of the mountain

Joseph Yoakum’s view of ‘Mt. Alpha of Brooks Range Near Wiseman, Alaska U.S.A.,’ made $32,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2022. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.
Joseph Yoakum’s view of ‘Mt. Alpha of Brooks Range Near Wiseman, Alaska U.S.A.,’ made $32,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2022. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.
Joseph Yoakum’s view of ‘Mt. Alpha of Brooks Range Near Wiseman, Alaska U.S.A.’ made $32,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2022. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — Many of the most renowned self-taught artists didn’t begin painting until late in life. Grandma Moses was 77, Clementine Hunter was in her 50s and Bill Traylor in his 80s. Most had to wait until their golden years, when they were no longer working to feed their families and had time to pursue a passion for art. For some, the decision came in a dream. Such was the case with Joseph E. Yoakum (1891–1972). Growing up poor on Chicago’s South Side with little schooling, he was drafted into the Army during World War I and served overseas before returning to Chicago. The troubled Yoakum led a mostly itinerant life, leaving home to work in circuses as a handyman, and, for a short time, he was institutionalized in a Chicago mental hospital.

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Howard Finster: a preacher whose other calling was folk art

Howard Finster was renowned for his wood cutouts, such as this 1989 example titled ‘The Angel Of The Lord,’ which earned $26,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.
Howard Finster was renowned for his wood cutouts, such as this 1989 example titled ‘The Angel Of The Lord,’ which earned $26,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.
Howard Finster was renowned for his wood cutouts, such as this 1989 example titled ‘The Angel Of The Lord,’ which earned $26,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2021. Image courtesy of Slotin Folk Art and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — Howard Finster (1916-2001) is known to most as an important self-taught artist, but he likely would have said his most important job, out of the many different trades he pursued, was as a Baptist preacher in the South. His twin callings of art and faith became forever intermingled.

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