In the New York sales series last week an artwork at Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Sale stirred bidder interest like few other lots. A 2014 painting by Kerry James Marshall garnered $18.5 million (with fees), the second highest price at auction for a work by a living Arrican American artist, according to CultureType. The work more than doubled its high estimate of $7.5 million while still falling below the artist's previous record of $21.1 million paid by Sean Combs last year for "Past Times."
Nearly six-feet tall, the fanciful, pink-hued "Vignette 19" shows three couples in a park-like setting. Noted Abigail Winograd in the monograph "Kerry James Marshall: Mastry," "Marshall’s Vignette paintings deploy the irreverent, decorative spirit of the rococo as a strategy for imaging quotidian black love, a nearly invisible category in the canon of Western painting."
Marshall’s mentor, the late printmaker and painter Charles White, also had a strong and touching work on offer, “Ye Shall Inherit the Earth.” The massive charcoal depicting social justice icon Rosa Lee Ingram went for $1.8 million against a low estimate of $500,000, setting a new auction high for the artist, notes the New York Times.
A record was also set for a work by Norman Lewis, and strong results prevailed for Mark Bradford at Christie's and Sotheby's.
“African-American art is strong at the moment,” dealer Christophe Van de Weghe told the Times. “The auction houses have struggled to find good material. People don’t want to sell their paintings. But when the auction houses find good things, they fly.”