Inaugural Boutique Auction of African American Art a Success
April 30, 2012 | view archive
African American Art has been one of the hottest areas in the marketplace of American art for the last 10 years. This is likely due to the confluence of interest from three major sources: African Americans wanting to celebrate their own heritage by collecting artwork created by their own people, often with shared similar life-experiences; from American art enthusiasts whose collection is missing an appropriate representation of this “sub-category”; and from museums who are responding to a growing demand to include works by these artists in their collections and thereby making it accessible to the public.
Where there are distinct groups of collectors chasing the same thing, there are the makings of a successful auction. This concept was supported at the inaugural boutique auction of Historically Significant African American Art presented by Antique Helper in
Bidders from coast-to-coast participated in this auction, utilizing telephone, Internet, and absentee bids to secure one of the 40 lots offered that day.
The artwork offered was labeled “historically significant” because it spanned the entirety of the 20th century. The first lot of the auction was Charles Ethan Porter’s beautifully painted, Mountain Laurels, executed within the first decade of the 20th century. Porter grew up in
The star lot of the sale, painted by Eldzier Cortor in the 1940s, depicted the face of a young African American woman in the extreme foreground, revealing an almost surreal interior and the moon through a broken window behind her. Cortor was part of the “Chicago Renaissance of Black Art” in the 1930s-1940s. He worked with a number of other well known artists, including Archibald Motley, Charles White, Margaret Burroughs, and Charles Sebree at the
The bidding opened at $30,000, which was the expected low estimate for the lot. It surpassed the high estimate of $50,000, finally selling to a telephone bidder for $114,000, a possible record price for a work by this artist at auction.
A painting by another
Walter Williams was a
Williams used a combination of mediums, including paint, wax, crayon, pastel, and even sand to create this striking image. Specialist Thom Pegg said that although it sold within its presale estimate, at $11,400, it was possibly the bargain of the auction.
A very interesting mixed media work by Marie Johnson Calloway from 1970 drew interest from
Overall, it seemed that original, unique works, such as oil paintings and sculpture did very well, even in the case of lesser known artists, while multiples sold more reasonably. Original prints by big names such as Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden sold for under $2000. Pegg believes that this supports the idea that even in a strong market such as African American Art, it is possible to own legitimate, original works by significant artists. “There is something for every price range, and this allows virtually everyone to collect something that has an inherent value and enjoy it at the same time,” says Pegg.
The next auction of African American Art is scheduled for fall of 2012.
* All prices listing include buyer's premium