Records for Joseph Delaney, Howardena Pindell, Winfred Rembert, Betye Saar & More in African American Art at Swann

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Auction Brings $3.9 Million

Howardena Pindell, Oval Memory Series: (Rhinoceros) Heaven, tempera, gouache, postcards, punched paper, nails, fluorescent paint, glitter and thread on board, 1980–81. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.
Howardena Pindell, Oval Memory Series: (Rhinoceros) Heaven, tempera, gouache, postcards, punched paper, nails, fluorescent paint, glitter and thread on board, 1980–81. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.

AFRICAN AMERICAN ART 

Sale 2565; April 22, 2021

Sale total: $3,985,760

Estimates for sale as a whole: $2,345,400–$3,563,600 

We offered 220 lots; 200 sold (91% sell-through rate by lot)

All prices include Buyer’s Premium.

New York—Swann Galleries’ spring offering of African American Art on Thursday, April 22 was the second highest grossing sale in the thirteen-year history of the department, with its highest number of participants to date. “I am thrilled to see the continued growth in our African American art auctions with a tremendous sale. 398 registered bidders (not counting those on other platforms) competed for 8 hours to bid on 220 lots. We set 13 artist records and saw high prices all around for many artists,” noted department director, Nigel Freeman. 

Bisa Butler, Nandi and Natalie (Friends), quilted and appliquéd dyed cotton fabrics, 2007. Sold for $75,000, an auction debut for Butler.
Bisa Butler, Nandi and Natalie (Friends), quilted and appliquéd dyed cotton fabrics, 2007. Sold for $75,000, an auction debut for Butler.

A strong showing of assemblage artists resonated with collectors with records being established for a number of artists working in the medium. Records included Howardena Pindell’s Oval Memory Series: (Rhinoceros) Heaven, a mixed-media piece in tempera, gouache, punched paper, nails, glitter and thread from 1980–81, at $100,000. The work was the first from the Oval Memory Series to come to auction, which Pindell created after a serious car accident that left her with acute memory loss in an effort to reconstruct her memories. Betye Saar’s Sojourn, 1995, earned a record for the artist at $87,500—the shadowbox employs the artist’s use of found objects and collage steeped in symbolic meaning. Artists working in assemblage in the twenty-first century included Vanessa German with You Bring Out the Savage in Me #1, a 2013 mixed-media sculpture that stands at about 4 feet, brought $18,750, a record for the artist; and with her market debut, Bisa Butler’s 2007 quilted and appliquéd Nandi and Natalie (Friends) earned $75,000.

Auction mainstays included Modernist painters such as Charles Alston, Beauford Dealney, Norman Lewis and Hale Woodruff. Woodruff led the sale with Primordial Landscape, a 1967 oil-on-canvas example of the artist’s post-war painting in which he describes landscape and natural phenomena within the idiom of Abstract Expressionism. The work sold for $245,000. Alston’s 1956–60 urban abstraction City at Night, reached $185,000; works by Delaney included Untitled (African Figure), a 1968 oil-on-canvas which achieved $125,000, and Untitled (Tent Interior), a 1951 color pastel from the Ness Oleson Trust, which sold for $137,000; from Lewis’s final body of work in abstract was Untitled (Abstraction in Red and Blue), a circa-1973 oil-on-paper work that realized $81,250.

Color field artists included Alma W. Thomas with two small-scale watercolors that drew significant interest from collectors: Untitled (Garden Composition), 1967, earned $81,259, and My Fall Garden, circa 1969, sold for $75,000. Sam Gilliam was available with Richer Scene, acrylic and polypropylene on canvas, 1998, at $185,000, and Toyopet I, an acrylic-on-canvas from Gilliam’s first period of experimentation in color field painting—completed in 1966 and then revisited in 1997—at $37,000. 

Further records included Joseph Delaney with Artist’s Studio Party, oil on canvas, 1940, at $81,250; and Winfred Rembert with Inside Jeff’s Café, dyes on tooled and carved leather, circa 1997, at $50,000. Additional highlights of note included works by Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, Ed Clark and Kerry James Marshall. 

Swann Galleries is currently accepting quality consignments for the fall 2021 season. For the house’s most up-to-date schedule please visit swanngalleries.com.

Key: † = Auction Record for the Artist; * = Second Highest Price at Auction; ♦ = Auction Debut

Additional Artist Records: Lot 50, Earl Hooks ($8,750); Lot 61, Samella Lewis ($17,500); Lot 74, Lev Mills ($10,000); Lot 123, Delilah W. Pierce ($16,250); Lot 151, Frank W. Wimberley ($27,500); Lot 202, Danny Simmons ($15,000); Lot 208, Vanessa German ($18,750); Lot 220, Tyrone Geter ($11,250). 

Additional highlights can be found here.

Captions:

Lot 122: Howardena Pindell, Oval Memory Series: (Rhinoceros) Heaven, tempera, gouache, postcards, punched paper, nails, fluorescent paint, glitter and thread on board, 1980–81. Sold for $100,000, a record for the artist.

Lot 198: Bisa Butler, Nandi and Natalie (Friends), quilted and appliquéd dyed cotton fabrics, 2007. Sold for $75,000, an auction debut for Butler.

Specialist: Nigel Freeman • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 3

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social Media: @swanngalleries 

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PRINTED CATALOGUE & ADDL. DIGITAL IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit swanngalleries.com for more information.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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