Auctions | May 16, 2014

Swann Galleries’ African-American Fine Art Auction Focuses on Art from the ‘60s and ‘70s


NEW YORK—On Tuesday, June 10, Swann Galleries will conduct and auction of African-American Fine Art titled: The Shape of Things to Come. The sale focuses on the rapid changes in both the art world and the nation—socially and politically—during the 1960s and 1970s.

African-American artists quickly adapted to the times in the era of the Civil Rights and Black Nationalism, and this 160-lot auction boasts a strong selection of works from those pivotal decades. Many of these artists are now being re-examined and prized by institutions and collectors, and have been included in recent major museum exhibitions.

Paintings include Barkley L. Hendricks’s Sergio, a 1972 oil and acrylic on canvas. Sergio is a bold life-size portrait painted at the beginning of Hendricks’s career, and was featured in the recent retrospective Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool. (Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000.)

William T. Williams’s Truckin, acrylic on canvas, 1969, is a significant painting from his first year of work after completing his MFA at Yale, with imagery that quickly gained him international recognition as an abstract painter in the late 1960s and early 1970s—it is, in fact, the earliest painting by the artist yet to come to auction ($75,000 to $100,000).

Additional 1960s highlights are Faith Ringgold’s large oil on canvas The American People Series #15: Hide Little Children, 1966, from her important The American People Series of approximately 20 paintings completed between 1963 and 1967, which displayed her pointed observations on race relations during the Civil Rights era ($35,000 to $50,000); Bob Thompson’s Untitled (Reflections), goauche on paper, 1963, inspired by the rituals and theater found in the Old Masters ($30,000 to $40,000); Walter Williams’s Southern Landscape, oil and collage on board, 1963-64, which is considered the artist’s most important painting, and one of his best known works ($20,000 to $30,00); Hughie Lee-Smith’s Rooftops, oil on canvas, 1961, a fascinating example of Lee-Smith's early 1960s work in New York where he continued painting rooftops scenes as he had in Detroit ($25,000 to $35,000); Vincent D. Smith’s Do-Rag Brother, oil and sand on canvas, 1968 ($10,000 to $15,000); and an Untitled acrylic on canvas by Alvin D. Loving, Jr., which is a striking and unusual example of the artist's geometric abstraction in a non-shaped canvas, circa 1969-70 ($30,000 to $40,000).

Other abstract paintings of note include Norman Lewis’s Under Sea, oil on canvas, 1953, a mid-career work from the 15 paintings shown in his fifth solo gallery exhibition at the Willard Gallery ($25,000 to $35,000) and Hale Woodruff’s Untitled (Green Landscape), oil on canvas, circa 1969-70 ($20,000 to $30,000).


The sale offers the first significant work by assemblage artist Noah Purifoy to come to auction: Untitled (Standing Figure), an assemblage construction including wood, wood veneer, leather and found objects, circa 1968-70 ($60,000 to $90,000).

There are two important late-career sculptures by Elizabeth Catlett, one, Standing Figure, in tropical wood and black enamel, 1986 ($150,000 to $200,000); the other, Reclined Figure, in black marble, 2005 ($60,000 to $90,000). These works embody Catlett’s expression of the female form found within the natural beauty of her materials.

Also among recent works by important female artists are Lorna Simpson’s Nervous Conditions, two color Polaroid prints with engraved Plexiglas, 1992 ($15,000 to $25,000); Julie Mehretu’s Entropia: Construction, lithograph on chine appliqué and Somerset Satin paper, 2005 ($8,000 to $12,000) and Kara Walker’s Canisters, complete set of six etched glass canisters, 1997 ($4,000 to $6,000) and no world, etching with aquatint, sugar-lift, spit-bite and drypoint on Hahnemuhle Copperplate Bright White paper, 2010, from her An Unpeopled Land in Uncharted Waters series ($7,000 to $10,000).

Contemporary highlights also include Sam Gilliam’s Looking at the Moon, raked polypropylene, acrylic, monoprint and color woodblock on an assemblage of collaged handmade papers and sewn found fabric, 1991 ($12,000 to $18,000); Frank Bowling’s Pink Plain 2, acrylic on collaged and stitched canvas, 1996 ($12,000 to $18,000) and Richard Mayhew’s Scarlet Journey, oil on canvas, 2006, a beautiful example of the artist’s later landscapes ($20,000 to $30,000).

There is a complete set of Romare Bearden’s Ritual Bayou, six editioned collages, color photo-lithograph mounted on finished plywood, 1971, titled Memories, Reunion, Ritual Bayou, Carolina Interior, Mississippi Monday and Byzantine Frieze. This very scarce set from the artist’s brief experimentation with editioned collages in the early 1970s was likely never fully realized in the intended edition of 75 ($20,000 to $30,000).

The auction will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10.

The works will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 6, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

An illustrated auction catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Nigel Freeman at 212-254-4710, extension 33, or via email at

Live online bidding is also available via

First image: Barkley L. Hendrick, Sergio, oil and acrylic on canvas, 1972. Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000.

Second image: Noah Purifoy, Untitled (Standing Figure), assemblage including wood, wood veneer, leather and found objects, circa 1968-70. Estimate: $60,000 to $90,000.