Swann Galleries’ biannual auction of African-American Fine Art on Thursday, October 5 promises never-before-seen art from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present. With just over 150 lots of scarce and important works by marquee artists including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis and Charles White, the sale carries an estimate of $2.3 to 3.4 million. The African-American Fine Art department at Swann Galleries, the only one of its kind in the world, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the house.
The top lot is a life-size pen-and-ink drawing by Charles White, titled Take My Mother Home, 1957, estimated at $250,000 to $350,000, the most significant drawing by the artist to come to auction since the house’s 2011 offering of Work, 1953 ($306,000). White is additionally represented by two oil monotypes, which are the first examples the artist’s work in the medium offered by Swann. Works by Elizabeth Catlett will also be offered: War Worker, 1943, is only the second painting by the artist ever to come to auction, valued at $60,000 to $90,000. The first, also offered by Swann, was Friends, 1944, which sold for $81,250 on December 15, 2015. Catlett is further represented by two bronze busts: Cabeza Cantolando (Spring Head), 1960, and Glory, 1981 ($8,000 to $12,000 and $30,000 to $40,000, respectively).
The selection of sculpture continues with two large works by Richmond Barthé: The Awakening of Africa (Africa Awakening), 1959 and Stevedore, 1937, cast 1986 ($50,000 to $75,000 and $30,000 to $40,000, respectively).
Fin de siècle paintings and prints byEdward M. Bannister and Henry Ossawa Tannerstand out in a modern-leaning sale. A large work from Tanner’s mid-career time in Paris, Flight into Egypt, circa 1920-25, illustrates one of the artist’s primary motifs ($200,000 to $300,000).
Haunting paintings by Hughie Lee-Smith are led by Untitled (Youths on a Lakeshore), 1952, valued between $100,000 and $150,000—one of his iconic depictions of young African-Americans in a desolate landscape. In a similar vein is The Encounter, a 1991 oil painting estimated at $50,000 to $75,000.
Abstraction is headed by Norman Lewis’s Untitled (Processional Composition), a 1960 oil painting of calligraphic figures on marbleized slate, expected to reach between $100,000 and $150,000. The sale also features two large 1950s abstract canvases by Alma Thomas as well as works by Ed Clark, Sam Gilliam, James Little, Al Loving, Sam Middleton and Haywood “Bill” Rivers.
A burgeoning section of photography includes a fine print of Roy Decarava’s Dancers, 1956, estimated at $15,000 to $25,000, as well as rare works by Louis H. Draper, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, P. (Prentice) Herman Polk and James VanDerZee. A quadriptych from Carrie Mae Weems’ Sea Island Series of silver prints and text panels interpreting the environs and lives of the Gullah people ($35,000 to $50,000) leads a selection of photographs and sculptures by the artist.
Proponents of the AfriCOBRA movement Wadsworth Jarrell and Nelson Stevens are well represented in the sale by colorful paintings and prints. Stevens’s Jihad Nation, 1970, is the first important painting and AfricCOBRA work by the artist to come to auction. It is expected to sell for $50,000 to $75,000. After achieving an auction record for a painting by Jarrell in fall 2016, Swann is pleased to offer Midnight Poet at 125th Street & Lenox, an acrylic street scene in the iconic style of the movement, valued at $25,000 to $35,000.
A run of figurative collages by Romare Bearden is led by Melon Time, 1967, at $80,000 to $120,000. Other unique works by the artist include the collage and watercolor The Evening Boat, 1984, of people waiting under an azure sky ($30,000 to $40,000), and At the Dock, 1984, valued at $20,000 to $30,000.
Contemporary art on offer includes The Emancipation Approximation (Scene 9), 2000, from Kara Walker’s important portfolio of screenprints of the same name, valued at $8,000 to $12,000 and works by Emma Amos, Eldzier Cortor, Jonathan Green and Julie Mehretu.
An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35. For further information and to make arrangements to bid, visit www.swanngalleries.com.
Auction date: Thursday, October 5, at 2:30 pm
Exhibition dates: September 30, 12-5; October 2 to 4, 10-6; October 5, 10-12
Additional highlights can be found here.
Captions: 1) Lot 4: Henry Ossawa Tanner, Flight into Egypt, oil on canvas, circa 1920-25. Estimate $200,000 to $300,000. 2) Lot 38: Charles White, Take My Mother Home, pen, ink and wash, 1957. Estimate $250,000 to $350,000. 3) Lot 65: Romare Bearden, Melon Time, collage, 1967. Estimate $80,000 to $120,000.
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