Heritage Auctions with retail sales of nearly 100 works by African American artists including Sargent Johnson, James Lesesne Wells and Elizabeth Catlett


HERITAGE AUCTIONS in Dallas, Texas, is selling a treasure trove of African American art from a private collection next month. The selection includes works of art by Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Mavis Pusey, Emma Amos, and Sam Gilliam.

The top lots are “Head of a Youth” (approx. 1930s), a terracotta sculpture by Sargent Claude Johnson and “Wanderers” (around 1930), a figurative painting by James Lesesne Wells. Both works are valued at $ 30,000 to $ 50,000. The auction is on November 5th and will take place during the second session of the American Art Signature Auction.

Lot 67214: SARGENT CLAUDE JOHNSON (American, 1888-1967), “head of a youth”, around 1930s (terracotta, 7 inches / 17.8 cm high on a 3 1/2 inch / 8.9 cm high wooden base). | Estimated $ 30,000- $ 50,000

Consigned by a Canadian-based collector who prefers to remain anonymous, 95 lots are on offer by more than 60 modern and contemporary African American artists. A wide range of media is represented, from painting and sculpture to mixed media and works on paper. Most of the work is limited edition prints. The material spans almost a century, from the end of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s to the present day with “Racquel Come to Me Two,” a digital pigment print by Mickalene Thomas in 2018.

Other auction highlights include “Head of a Woman” (approx. 1938), a second sculpture by Johnson; “Surrealistic Figures with Tribal Masks”, an undated painting Charles Alston; Watercolors from Bob Thompson, Norman Lewis, and Eldzier-Kortor; and an abstract steel sculpture by Harold cousins.

Three ink, wash and collage portraits of historical women were made in 1942 by Lois Mailou Jones for an illustrated calendar of 12 American women. Prints of historical figures like Benny Andrews, Vivian E. Browne, Margaret Burroughs, Hughie-Lee Smith, and John Wilson, offered. A number of today’s active artists are also featured, including Thomas, Gilliam, McArthur Binion, Rashid Johnson, Richard Mayhew, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Jamel Shabazz, Lorna Simpson, and Anna Tanksley.

HERITAGE MAYS THE EVENT “Soul of a Nation: Black Art From a Distinguished Collector”, based on the groundbreaking Tate Modern exhibition in London. “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” (2017-20) with valuable original works produced by around 60 iconic Afro-American artists between 1963 and 1983 traveled internationally to museums in Arkansas, New York, Texas and California .

Aviva Lehmann, vice president and director of American art at Heritage Auctions, told Culture Type that the consignor had a career in the entertainment industry. “He originally collected documents and historical manuscripts related to black history, and from there he has been very interested in the fine arts for the past 15 years, mainly the Harlem Renaissance and even today,” she said. “At Heritage we worked on his collection of historical documents. It worked out very well (in January 2019). We had a relationship with him and I was able to convince him to let us sell his art collection. “

Lehmann adds: “It’s just exciting for me. We are an American auction house. We get along very well with American art and I thought it was time as an American auction house to focus heavily on black art because it’s such an integral part of our history. I am excited to deal with it. “

“We are an American auction house. We get along very well with American art and I thought it was time as an American auction house to focus heavily on black art because it’s such an integral part of our history. I’m excited to deal with it. ”- Aviva Lehmann, Heritage Auctions

Lot: 67222: JAMES LESESNE WELLS, (American, 1902-1993), “Wanderers”, around 1930 (oil on canvas, 46.4 x 62.2 cm). | Estimated $ 30,000- $ 50,000

A catalog accompanies the retail sale with Johnson’s “Head of a Youth” on the cover. The catalog contains an essay by Halima Taha, an art and culture strategist and author of the book “Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas”. She writes about collecting black visual culture and documents the growing interest in African American art in the secondary market. The catalog also contains an introduction by the collector who signs his contribution with the initials: “JS”

About a decade ago, after observing the African American art sales market for a few years, “I realized that this is a collecting area that I can participate in. And best of all, it was still affordable for what it is. ”Is getting harder and harder to say. The work was visually exciting, varied, powerful and even enlightening, ”he wrote.

In his opinion, passion and love are the most important motivators that drive collectors. “Every carefully and methodically acquired addition to a collection is like fitting a piece into a puzzle that is never quite finished. When the puzzle grows, new perspectives open up, knowledge expands, the appreciation for the objects, their makers, the social context in which they were made, deepens, ”wrote the collector.

“This was certainly the case for my collection of black art that is up for auction here today. If the world of black art hadn’t opened up to me, I would never have had the privilege or the pleasure of seeing such wonderful and accomplished artists as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Emma Amos, Sargent Johnson, Mickalene Thomas, and that’s not enough once on the surface. ” CT

* Condition reports, which are enclosed with each lot, show aging, wear and damage problems

FIND MORE The first session of the American Art Signature Auction on November 5th at Heritage Auctions features three works by African American artists: “Head of a Boy” (n.d.) by Richmond Barthé; an undated indoor pool painting by Ernie Barnes, from the collection of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; and “Harlequin” (c. 1956), a collage by Romare Bearden of various papers with color, ink, and pencil on paper estimated at $ 250,000-350,000. The Bearden collage has labels from ACA Galleries, Jerald Melberg Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art and National Gallery of Art on the back. The museum names the photographer Frank Stewart as the lender of the traveling exhibition “The Art of Romare Bearden”. The provenance for the lot is listed by Stewart and the arts and culture strategist Halima Taha, who was co-owner of the Onyx Gallery in New York City decades ago

Lot 67217: LOIS MAILOU JONES (American, 1905-1998), “Village Street”, around 1950 (watercolor on paper, 29.2 x 21.6 cm). | Estimate $ 3,000- $ 5,000

Lot 67231: ELIZABETH CATLETT (American, 1915-2012), “Survivor”, 1983 (linocut on paper, 23.8 x 19.1 cm), Ed. 142/1000. | Estimate $ 3,000- $ 5,000

Lot 67236: CHARLES WILBERT WHITE (American, 1918-1979), “Head of a man in profile”, posthumous impression, around 1984 (etching on wove paper, 22.5 x 30.5 cm), inscribed in pencil lower left; Artist’s estate stamp on lower right, printed and published posthumously by Hand Graphics, Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico with ink stamp on reverse. | Estimate $ 2,000- $ 3,000

Lot 67286: RALPH ARNOLD (American, born 1924), “Cascade”, 1986-88 (colored pencil, acrylic and pencil on paper, 57.5 x 56.5 cm, sheet). | Estimate from $ 1,000 to $ 1,500

Lot 67291: EMMA AMOS (American, born 1938), “On Top of the World”, 1996 (color etching with fabric collage on paper, 75.9 x 56.2 cm, sheet), ed. 16/60. | Estimate $ 2,000- $ 3,000

Lot 67298: BETYE SAAR (American, born 1926), “Keep for Old Memories, 1976 (offset lithograph on paper, 34.9 x 46.0 cm, sheet), Ed. 57/250. Printed by Cirrus Editions, Ltd., Los Angeles. | Estimate $ 1,200-1,800

Lot 67242: JACOB LAWRENCE (American, 1917-2000), “Revolt on the Amistad”, 1989 (silkscreen in colors on wove paper, 88.9 x 65.4 cm, illustration), Ed. 88/120. Published by Spradling-Ames, Key West. Printed by Lou Stovall. | Estimate $ 6,000- $ 8,000

Lot 67296: MICKALENE THOMAS (American, born 1971), “Racquel Come to Me Two”, 2018 (digital pigment print, 15 1/8 x 11 5/8 inches / 38.4 x 29.5 cm, illustration; 16 1 / 2 x 13 inches, sheet), Signed, dated and numbered 9/50 in pencil. | Estimate $ 4,000- $ 6,000

Lot 67219: SARGENT CLAUDE JOHNSON (1888-1967), “woman’s head”, around 1938 (glazed terracotta, 5 1/2 inches / 14 cm high on a 3/4 inch / 1.9 cm painted wooden base). | Estimated to be $ 15,000 to $ 25,000

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