Several new auction records set at Swann Galleries’ Feb. 17 African-American Fine Art sale

NEW YORK— Swann Galleries’ Feb. 17 auction of African-American Fine Art saw top-dollar results for works by major black artists. The top lot, a monumental charcoal and crayon drawing by Charles White, Move On Up a Little Higher, 1961, sold to a major American museum for $228,000. All prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Nigel Freeman, Director of Swann’s African-American Fine Art department, said, “Despite the uncertainty of the art market in today’s economy, we saw strong prices for scarce modern works by African-American artists, with competitive bidding by museums. We were thrilled to sell our cover lot, Move On Up a Little Higher, to an important institution.”

An artist-record price was achieved for Hale Woodruff’s 1973 oil on canvas Cinque Exhorts his Captives, which sold to a private collector for $156,000. Swann’s earlier auctions of African-American Fine Art established benchmarks for Woodruff’s work—indeed, this is the fourth consecutive auction record for the artist set at Swann in the past four years.

Also setting auction records for the artists were Richard Mayhew’s abstract landscape Ascension, oil on canvas, 1982, $20,400; James Bolivar Needham’s first work to come to auction, A Morning with the Yachts & Houseboats, a scarce, large oil on canvas offering a view of Chicago’s lakeside docks, 1896, $10,800; and pieces by 18 other artists, 14 of whom made their auction debuts in this sale.

An oil on masonite painting by Hughie Lee-Smith, Untitled (Rooftop View), 1957, a fine example of the artist’s most recognized subject, a solitary figure in an urban setting, exceeded its pre-sale estimate to bring $102,000.

Alvin D. Loving, Jr.’s striking hard-edge painting Cube 27, acrylic on shaped canvas, 1970, sold to a different museum for $84,000. Very few abstract paintings by Loving have come to auction, and the current record for the artist was established at Swann’s October 2008 auction, when his Untitled (Hexagon) sold for $156,000.

A pair of works by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim were the earliest pieces in the sale. The Annunciation to the Shepherds, and Adoration of the Golden Calf, both circa 1895, were excellent examples of the artist’s representation of religious subjects. They sold for $66,000 and $72,000 respectively.

The sale also featured paintings by Beauford Delaney, Norman Lewis and Sam Gilliam; prints by John Biggers, Jacob Lawrence and John Wilson; and photographs by James Van Der Zee.

For complete results or further information, visit

Click here to share your thoughts in the Antique Trader Message Boards.