Black Art Auction

1497 N Harding Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

About Auction House

BLACK ART AUCTION, located in Indianapolis, is solely dedicated to the sale of art by African Americans. Our goal is to increase awareness of the lives and work of these artists who have contributed historically, but in many cases, have been overlooked in the general art market. The vast majority of the material we sell is from the 19th and 20th centuries. We do offer contemporary works, but we do not see our role as introducing emerging artists to the public—we will leave that to the galleries.

Auction Previews & News

4 Results
  • Artists, Auction Industry
    Artist to Know: Thelma Johnson Streat

    Black Art Auction to Offer Works by American Painter and Dancer When Thelma Johnson Streat was at the midpoint of her painting career, she felt the need to step beyond the canvas. She was already making murals that celebrated multiculturalism and rewrote the narrative around Black Americans. Yet after she received threats from the Ku Klux Klan, Streat decided to take her educational efforts a step further. She began performing dances in front of her paintings. Dance was a natural extension of her art practice, one she hoped would lead to better dialogue and understanding. Streat eventually became a groundbreaking artist and an early advocate of performance art. Two oil paintings by Streat will be available in Black Art Auction’s upcoming single-owner sale from the collection of Melvin Holmes. The bidding will start at 12:00 PM EDT on July 17th, 2021. Before placing a bid, learn more about Thelma Johnson Streat and her work. Thelma Johnson Streat performing in 1948. Image from the Oregon Historical Society Research Library. Original photo by Roy Flamm. In 1911, Thelma Johnson Streat was born in Yakima, Washington. Her parents were of African and Cherokee descent, influences that Streat often returned to in her mature work. She grew up lonely and isolated in a nearly all-white neighborhood. Still, she showed great promise as an artist and received her first big break while in high school. Streat’s portrait of a local priest won an honorary mention from the Harmon Foundation in New York City. The award kick-started Streat’s career.  Streat eventually moved to San Francisco, where she started with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). She joined a generation of artists who created inspiring pieces during the Great Depression. While completing sweeping murals depicting the Black working class, Streat encountered famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Both artists wished to elevate the contributions of Black and Indigenous people within the American mainstream. Rivera recruited Streat to help create his Pan American Unity mural, allowing her unusual liberties in its design and execution.  Rivera collected Streat’s paintings and publicly supported her career, stating: “The work of Thelma Johnson Streat…

  • Artists
    Masters on the Market: Alma Thomas

    Photograph of Alma Thomas. Image from the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1960, after nearly 40 years as an art teacher, Alma Thomas retired to focus on her own work. She'd achieved some success as an artist before then. However, it was during these later years that she began her experiments with color and abstraction that collectors know her for today.  Despite the gender and racial barriers she faced, along with a worsening case of arthritis, Alma Thomas and her colorful artworks earned recognition across the United States. In 1972, for example, she became the first Black American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. "Through color I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness in my painting rather than on man's inhumanity to man," said Alma Thomas of her work.  Alma's Flower Garden, a painting the artist made of her Washington D.C. garden, recently sold for a record-breaking USD 2.8 million. Some experts, however, were upset by this development. The sale was part of the Greenville County Museum of Art’s controversial deaccessioning process, and the buyer’s identity is unknown. It's now unclear when (or if) the painting will be back in public view.  Who was Alma Thomas? And what does this recent sale mean for her artworks going forward? Auction Daily takes a closer look. An untitled watercolor by Alma Thomas. Photo from Treadway. Alma Thomas’ Life and Work Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1891. Her love of nature and its wide spectrum of colors began with the view from her home in Columbus. Her family eventually moved to Washington D.C., and Thomas grew up to become the first graduate of Howard University's art department in 1924. Alma Thomas became a beloved art teacher for many decades and was also pivotal in establishing the first unsegregated art gallery in Washington D.C., Barnett-Aden Gallery. In the 1940s, she became a part of The Little Paris Group, a community of Black artists in the capital organized by Loïs Mailou Jones. The following decade, Thomas began learning from and…

  • Artists, Auction Industry
    Masters on the Market: Elizabeth Catlett

    ‘Glory’ Sculpture by American-Mexican Artist Available at Wright After completing her undergraduate work at Howard University, a young Elizabeth Catlett pursued a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa. She studied under American Gothic painter Grant Wood, whose advice changed the direction of her life. “Do something that you know a lot about, the most about,” Wood told Catlett and her peers. Catlett considered the things she knew: women, Black people, and working people. She returned to those subjects throughout her decades-long career, slowly gathering recognition and acclaim. She is now known as one of the leading American sculptors and graphic artists of the 20th century.  A bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett will come to auction with Wright on March 11th, 2021. Bidding will start at 11:00 AM EST. Learn more about Elizabeth Catlett before the auction begins.  Elizabeth Catlett. Image by Fern Logan via Ebony. The granddaughter of formerly enslaved people, Elizabeth Catlett was born in Washington, D.C. She learned about oppression at a young age. Catlett’s grandparents taught her about their experiences, and her mother told her about life in the slums of D.C. Catlett pursued art through high school and college. She studied under Loïs Mailou Jones at Howard and turned toward sculpture while earning her Master’s degree.  Political commentary formed the foundation of Catlett’s work. She traveled around the United States during the 1940s, engaging with various art and activist communities. These experiences inspired Catlett to create art for poor and disenfranchised individuals. Many of her sculptures depict Black women with children or in solitude. Other pieces capture famous figures such as Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X.  “Catlett kind of came of age as an artist when African-Americans and women were not part of the mainstream,” curator Isolde Brielmaier told NPR in 2012. “They were not part of the center. They were relegated to the margins and excluded.” Elizabeth Catlett, Glory, 1981. Image from Wright. Catlett eventually moved to Mexico City to flee Jim Crow laws and America’s growing McCarthyism. She started working at the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) workshop and learned…

  • Auction Preview
    Works on Paper & 3-D

    A Black American sculptor, Richmond Barthé (1901–1989) was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and remains well-known for his representation of Black subjects. One of the leading lots in the upcoming Works on Paper & 3-D sale, presented by Black Art Auction, is a bronze sculpture of Senegalese dancer Féral Benga by Barthé. The sculptor completed this work after he moved to New York City during the Great Depression. Living downtown gave him exposure to vibrant cultural and social experiences. At a time when most artists were struggling to survive, Barthé accomplished several significant works, including the available work. Another key lot is an abstract dried pigment on gessoed paper piece by Ed Clark, an American Abstract Expressionist painter. Clark was among the early developers of shaped canvases in the 1950s.  Other highlights include works by Sam Gilliam, a color field painter and Lyrical Abstractionist. One of the available Gilliam pieces is titled Insight 3, made with acrylic, aluminum fasteners, and machine-sewn thread on die-cut paper. This work is mounted on plywood and can be hung vertically or horizontally. To view the complete catalog and register to bid online, visit Black Art Auction.