Black artists led in sales on Wednesday (May 12) during Sotheby’s first live auction since the start of the pandemic. Among the artists leading the sales were Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, and Robert Colescott.
The auction house raised $218.3 million during the auction, The New York Times reported. Art specialists from London, Hong Kong joined the social distanced salesroom virtually, while Christie’s held a completely virtual auction on Tuesday (May 11).
The outlet reported that throughout the auctions there was a notable shift towards artwork by artists of color, some of them breaking sales records.
“There seems to be an incredible energy for a new generation of artists that are looking at issues of our time, such as race, gender, and sexuality,” Abigail Asher, an art adviser who attended the auction told the outlet. “There is a dynamism both in the art that they are creating and the prices they are achieving.”
Colescott’s “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page From an American History Textbook” was purchased by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles for $15.32 million. The museum said the piece was “an essential” for their collection.
“This is such an essential work for our collection,” Sandra Jackson-Dumont, director and chief executive of the Lucas said in an interview with The Times. “It has not been out there in the public sphere. This work is a significant part of the history of artists doing narrative work. It’s at once contemporary and historical.”
Asher told The Times that the interest in artists of color is a response to social movements like Black Lives Matter and the new hybrid auction format may be opening more channels for artists of color to sell their artwork on the global front.
The 2016 piece, “Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit” by Mickalene Thomas sold for $1.8 million, which was a personal record for the artist.
The highly-anticipated pieces from Basquiat sold, “In This Case” and “Versus Medici” sold for $93.1 million and $50.8 million, respectively. The higher sale was the second-highest price ever paid for a Basquiat piece at the auction.
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