BLACK ART AUCTION held its inaugural auction on May 16, 2020 during a global pandemic and began its journey with bidder #1. Less than a calendar year later, at the beginning of our February 2021 auction, we had more than 1,000 registered bidders. The buyers were major museums, advanced collectors, and young buyers just getting started collecting—bidding in their first auction.
With offices in Indianapolis and St Louis, Black Art Auction is solely dedicated to the sale of art by African Americans. Our goal is to increase awareness of the lives and work of these artists who have contributed historically, but in many cases, have been overlooked in the general art market. The vast majority of the material we sell is from the 19th and 20th centuries.
This past year, Black Art Auction set numerous price records for artists’ work included in the three separate auctions held. There were works that sold for impressive prices, such as Sam Gilliam’s Patch Leaf, which sold for $905,000, John Biggers’ large drawing of Cloth Traders , which fetched $245,000, and Ed Clark’s China Series , that sold for $341,000; but there were also works that weren’t quite at that level, but were significant because they were strong prices that reflect newfound interest in the work of artists who have been historically undervalued. Harlan Jackson’s Mask reached a record price for a work by the artist, at $37,500; Evangeline Montgomery’s untitled yellow abstract brought $8,125; Southern Comfort by Cliff Joseph set a new record price for the artist at $20,000; Earl Hooks’ Man of Sorrows bronze sculpture sold for $100,000. These are just a few examples that illustrate the broadening of interest in the field of historical African American art.
In February, we started 2021 off with a successful Works on Paper/Alternative Media auction. The highlight of that sale was Josephine Baker by Richmond Barthe, which sold for $221,000. Barthe scholar, Dr. Margaret Vendryes wrote a fantastic single work monograph on the sculpture (read here). BAA plans to continue to work with independent scholars like this in an effort to educate and increase the awareness of the work of African American artists. We are currently collaborating on a similar project with Dr. Theresa Leininger-Miller, who is writing an essay on the work of Albert Alexander Smith.
We are very appreciative of the interest and enthusiasm from all the buyers, sellers, scholars, and fans of the great works we have had the opportunity to learn about and represent this past year. We look forward to sharing with you the opportunities this next year presents.