Ernie Barnes’ most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” a lavish dance scene featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You” and during the end credits of the TV sitcom “Good Times,” sold for only a whopping $15.3 million at Christie’s 20th Century auction on Thursday night to energy trader Bill Perkins, valued at $150,000 to $200,000.
The staggering price – more than double that of a Cézanne and more than a Monet and a de Kooning – reflected not only the rarity of Barnes’ painting painted in 1976, but also the increased interest in the work of black artists at the time. as the art world became aware of diversity issues and made a strong commitment to expanding the canon.
Barnes, a former football player who died in 2009, was known for his kinetic drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures.
Female artists also did well on Thursday night, namely Howardena Pindell, whose work of sewn canvas squares sold for $1.3 million (estimated $300,000 to $500,000); Ruth Asawa, whose copper and copper wire work sold for nearly $2 million (estimated $800,000 to $1,200,000); and Grace Hartigan, whose colorful abstract “Early November” sold for $1.4 million (estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million).
The auction’s top artists brought in solid prices, including Monet, Van Gogh and Pollock. But there were a few surprises, namely Emanuel Leutze’s grand “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” which sold for $45 million, more than double the high estimate of $20 million.
A 1909 bronze cast Picasso, “Head of a Woman (Fernande),” raised $48.5 million for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s acquisition fund, after it was recently divested by the museum and expected to sell for $30 million.