On Thursday, April 7, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of African-American Fine Art, featuring works by modern and contemporary artists.
The sale is headlined by Faith Ringgold’s 1988 story quilt, Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge (pictured above), the second quilt in her important 1988 Woman on a Bridge series. The series depicts women floating above the famous bridges of San Francisco and New York and includes Ringgold’s most famous story quilt, Tar Beach. This is only the second of Ringgold’s signature story quilts to come to auction: the first, Maya’s Quilt of Life, sold at Swann in September 2015 as part of The Art Collection of Maya Angelou, realizing $461,000, a record for Ringgold’s work at auction. Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge, which has been shown extensively in museum exhibitions, is estimated at $150,000 to $250,000.
Modern highlights begin with Allan Freelon’s beautiful Baiting Trawls, oil on canvas, circa 1930-35 ($30,000 to $40,000). This scene of Gloucester is the largest painting by the artist to appear at Swann. Hughie Lee-Smith’s 1938 oil on canvas, Portrait of a Boy, is a very rare example from his WPA era in Cleveland, and one of the earliest portraits by Lee-Smith to come to auction ($30,000 to $40,000). Elizabeth Catlett’s My right is a future of equality with other Americans, linoleum cut, 1947, is a scarce early color proof from her important series I am the Negro Woman ($7,000 to $10,000).
Also featured in the sale is a strong group of works by Norman Lewis from the 1940s and 50s. Included are two striking modernist oil paintings – Untitled (Figurative Abstraction), 1945 ($75,000 to $100,000), and Untitled, 1947 ($60,000 to $90,000, and the cover lot for the sale) – which show the range of his experimentation in his first years of abstraction. Lewis’s Untitled (Processional Figure Composition), oil, pen and ink on cream wove paper, 1956, is a complex example of his “little figures” in the largest format the artist used for works on paper.
A figurative, postwar work that is sure to be of great interest is one of Palmer Hayden’s best-known paintings, The Blue Nile, 1964, depicting a reclining African mother and child sleeping beside the river ($35,000 to $50,000).
Contemporary abstraction is well represented with excellent works by Frank Bowling, Sam Gilliam, Jack Whitten William T. Williams and Kenneth Victor Young. A highlight is Sam Gilliam’s colorful Rondo IX, acrylic and collage on cotton canvas, 1983 ($50,000 to $75,000). Exhibited in Modern Painters at the Corcoran: Sam Gilliam, it is the first example from his Rondo series to come to auction. Frank Bowling’s Irv Sandler’s Visit, acrylic on canvas, 1977, is the first canvas from the artist’s “poured paintings” series to come to auction ($35,000 to $50,000).
Important works by contemporary artists Carrie Mae Weems and Wadsworth Jarrell round out the auction. Weems’ iconic Blue Black Boy, triptych of three toned gelatin silver prints, with Prestype and frame, 1987-88, from her celebrated Colored People series, is one of her best known images ($40,000 to $60,000). Jarrell’s The Messengers, acrylic on canvas, 1979, is his largest work on canvas and the first from his important 1970’s period to come to auction ($30,000 to $40,000).
The auction will be held Thursday, April 7, beginning at 2:30 p.m. The auction preview will be open to the public Saturday, April 2 from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, April 4 through Wednesday, April 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m; and Thursday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to noon.
An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.