Johnson Publishing’s African-American art headed to auction

Barbara Johnson Zuber, Jump Rope, oil on canvas, circa 1970. $1,000 to $1,500. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

CHICAGO (AP) – Bankrupt Johnson Publishing Co., the former owner of Ebony and Jet magazines, will sell off art that once decorated the company’s Chicago headquarters.

Among the artworks to be offered Jan. 30 at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City are paintings, sculptures and other works from 75 African American artists. A series of seven photographs in custom frames with sandblasted text on glass by Carrie Mae Weems chronicles the migration from the South of thousands of African Americans seeking to escape Jim Crow laws and anti-black violence.

Johnson Publishing filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in April, citing debts and unsuccessful attempts to restructure or sell the company.

In a July bankruptcy auction, Johnson Publishing sold its Ebony photo archives to a consortium of foundations for $30 million. Its Fashion Fair Cosmetics business was sold in December for $1.85 million.

Dindga McCannon, The Last Farewell, oil on canvas, 1970. $30,000 to $40,000. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

In 2016, Ebony and Jet were sold to Clear View Group, a Texas equity firm.


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