NEW YORK — African American art continues to set records at Swann Auction Galleries.
A December sale at the auction house established records for eight artists, including Charles Alston, Wadsworth Jarrell and Augusta Savage, and totaled $2.8 million, well surpassing its presale estimate of $2.2 million. The 211-lot auction also had an 82 percent sell-through rate.
Charles Alston’s Black and White #8 was the star lot, selling for a record $197,000.
“Despite the turbulent year, I am thrilled to see the continued growth of our sales, and the rising recognition of the great artists featured: from Harlem Renaissance masters Augusta Savage and Charles Alston to prized postwar painters Wadsworth Jarrell and John Robinson,” said Nigel Freeman, Swann Galleries’ director of African American art. “We had a tremendous level of interest in the sale overall with an increasingly diverse audience of individual collectors and institutions from around the world.”
Two works by Romare Bearden achieved six figures: Woman and Child, a collage of various colored and printed papers and pencil, sold for $173,000; and The Last of the Blue Devils, a collage on board, achieved $100,000.
Also selling for $100,000 was Emma Amos’ Water Baby painting, her second-highest auction result.
Jarrell’s colorful acrylic on canvas, titled Subway, brought $125,000, a record price for his work.
Also achieving a personal auction record was Augusta Savage for her plaster bust, Gamin, which brought $112,500.
Other highlights include Simone Leigh’s Head, glazed and painted fire stoneware, 2004, $93,750; Sir Frank Bowling, Repose for SO, acrylic on canvas, 1976, $93,750; Kenneth Victor Young, Untitled, acrylic on cotton canvas, circa 2000, $81,250; John N. Robinson, Reclining Woman (Gladys), oil on canvas, 1952, $81,250; and Alma Thomas, Untitled (Composition in Dark Blue Black and Deep Pink), acrylic on paper, 1972, $62,500.
Swann had a banner year in 2020 for African American art, with total sales reaching nearly $10 million. In January 2020, the department handled the sale of the art collection of the Johnson Publishing Company, the company responsible for the magazines Ebony and Jet, which were pivotal to Black American life for seven decades. All of the lots in the auction sold, garnering twice the auction’s high estimate and setting records for 29 artists including Carrie Mae Weems and Richard Mayhew. At its June 2020 auction, which had an 88 percent sell-through rate, the department sold its top lot of the year: Richmond Barthé’s cast bronze statue, Feral Benga (1936), a Harlem Renaissance masterpiece that sold for $629,000, a record for the artist. Both sales brought new artists to the secondary market.
“These are wonderful artists who have established themselves over the course of long careers,” Freeman said. “The market is just catching up.”
More auction results from the December sale can be found here.
For more information, visit swanngalleries.com.