During the Black Lives Matter protests in Boston in June 2020, Beacon Hill-based fine art and jewelry auction house Grogan & Company’s front door was spray painted with the message "#BLM DO BETTER, ART WORLD!” With the consignment of 13 works by Black artists to The Fall Auction on November 15, 2020, the firm has identified an opportunity to do so. Grogan & Company will contribute 5% of their proceeds from the sale of lots 16 through 28 to Boston's Artists For Humanity (AFH). The donation will provide support to the next generation of BIPOC artists and is meant to encourage others in the art world to take the challenge to “Do Better.”
AFH provides under-resourced teens with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. By working with 250+ Boston teens annually, AFH promotes social change through employment in the creative industries. AFH offers young people a powerful platform to amplify their voice, the opportunity to work, and a supportive community where they can develop the creative, entrepreneurial, and academic skills necessary to achieve their goals.
“The call to action tagged on our door in June was clear: the art world can and must do better for people of color,” remarks Lucy Grogan Edwards, the Grogan & Company’s vice president and jewelry director. "In selecting a recipient for the donation, we were drawn to Artists For Humanity for two reasons – their local influence and their focus on the employment of under-resourced teens. It’s a small step but one we hope to build upon through continued collaboration with AFH.”
Nine of the 13 works by Black artists are being sold from a collection compiled by a Wellesley, Massachusetts family in the 1970s and 80s. The collection is headlined by an original mixed media piece by Romare Howard Bearden (American, 1911-1988) titled In the Garden. Dated 1978, the colorful 10 x 7 inch work was exhibited at the Massachusetts College of Art exhibition, Boston Collects Bearden, in May 1982. It is being offered with an estimate of $40,000-60,000.
Bearden’s distinguished and prolific career as an artist began with formal education at Boston University, New York University, the Arts Students League in New York, and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He joined the Harlem Artists Guild and had his first solo exhibition in in Harlem in 1940. Alongside his successful career as an artist, Bearden worked as a social worker with the NYC Department of Social Services from the mid-1930s through the 1960s. He was a dedicated spokesperson and advocate for African-American artistic and social issues of the day and was appointed the first art director of the Harlem Cultural Council. Along with fellow artists Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, Bearden established Cinque, a foundation to support young minority artists. He was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970.
In addition to In the Garden, two other Beardens are to be included in The Fall Auction. Roots is a 23 3/4 x 18 in. collage and lithograph bearing the looming profile of a Black man against a blue background depicting the outline of the African continent. In the left foreground is a ship shown in cross section with the silhouette of hundreds of dark figures revealed within the ship’s hull. Roots is one of two examples of this lithograph that Bearden hand-collaged. It is being offered with an estimate of $2,000-3,000. St. Lucia, the third and final Bearden in the sale, is a watercolor depicting a lush, tropical landscape. Painted in 1976, the watercolor was a study for a monotype of the same subject. It is being offered with an estimate of $3,000-5,000.
Also from the Wellesley collection is the original of the widely reproduced painting, Jesus Loves Me, by Varnette P. Honeywood (American, 1950-2010). Dated 1983, the 36 x 48 inch acrylic on canvas depicts a colorful rendering of a church service packed with attendees dressed in their Sunday best. It was purchased by the family through the 17 Wendell Street Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is accompanied by correspondence between the collector and the artist. The piece is being offered at $10,000-20,000.
Los Angeles based artist Honeywood, became a household name when Bill and Camille Cosby began to collect her work and it appeared on the set of The Cosby Show. A graduate of Spellman College in Atlanta and the University of Southern California, where she earned her master’s degree in education in 1974, Honeywood used her degrees to teach art to minority children in the public schools as well as at the Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. Creating positive, colorful, and upbeat visual images of Black families and life became central to her artwork. Among her many artistic influences, Honeywood cited Romare Bearden as a mentor and friend.
In addition to Bearden and Honeywood, the 13 lots include works by Robert Louis Thompson (American, 1937–1966), Benny Andrews (American, 1930-2006), John Tarrell Scott (American, 1940-2007), and Mose Ernest Tolliver (American, 1924-2006).
The Fall Auction will feature over 380 lots of fine art, jewelry, silver, and decorative arts. The curated selection of objects is being offered from private collections and estates from New England and beyond. The Fall Auction will be held live at the firm’s Beacon Hill headquarters with all bidding participation executed remotely via absentee, internet, and telephone bids. The sale will be live streamed on their website.
For more information on The Fall Auction, including an illustrated online catalogue, please visit www.groganco.com. For more information on ARF, please visit www.afhboston.org for details on upcoming events and public exhibitions, links to their online store and social channels, and so much more.
Contact:Lucy Grogan Edwards
Grogan & Company
20 Charles Street
About Grogan & Company
Established in Boston in 1987, Grogan & Company is a boutique, high-end auction house specializing in the sale of fine art and jewelry from private collections, estates, and institutions. Our individualized approach is tailored to meet the needs of each client with whom we work, whether they are buying or selling. Grogan & Company is headquartered in a state-of-the-art auction gallery in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, from where we provide a personalized gateway to the international marketplace. Our decades of experience gives us an unparalleled perspective on today’s auction market.