Art & Culture

Auction Records: At Sotheby’s, Julie Mehretu, Barbara Chase-Riboud, and Barkley L. Hendricks Reach New Heights, Major Kerry James Marshall Painting Finds One Bidder

BLACK FEMALE ARTISTS had a great night at Sotheby’s New York. “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” (2008), an intense storm of hazy grays by Julie Mehretu, set a historic new artist record, pushing the her high mark to more than $10.7 million. Pioneering sculptor Barbara Chase-Riboud also achieved a record result and young British painter Jadé Fadojutimi hammered in record range as sales of her work reached new heights across Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips this week and last. Spanning three generations, each of the artists has established her own innovative brand of abstraction.

Fall sales at New York’s major auction houses have generally been decidedly lukewarm this season. There were some bright spots in Sotheby’s evening auctions, however. The two back-to-back sales on Nov. 15 featured marquee lots, record results, and a few prices far exceeding estimates.

Lot 7: JULIE MEHRETU, “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning,” 2008 (ink and acrylic on canvas, 95 ⅝ by 142 ⅛ in. 242.9 by 361 cm). | Estimate $7 million-$10 million. SOLD for $10,737,500 fees included. RECORD


KICKING OFF THE EVENT, The Now Evening Auction included 18 lots and all found buyers. Introduced after the pandemic, the sale focuses on in-demand artists. The selections represent “the art of our time, offering the most exciting, cutting-edge works on the market and providing a masterpiece context for well-established and newly canonized artists,” according to Sotheby’s.

Five lots by Black artists were offered. The notable outcomes for Mehretu and Fadojutimi were coupled with results that hovered at the low estimates for David Hammons, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Kerry James Marshall.

A premium example of Mehretu’s layered, abstract compositions, “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” sold for more than $10.7 million. The record result is particularly significant because Ethiopian-born, New York-based Mehretu sits at the top of the auction market in two categories. She already held the record for the most expensive work at auction by an African-born artist and a Black female artist living or dead. The historic benchmark was established in October when an untitled 2001 painting sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $9.3 million. The new result solidifies her standing, pushing her record up an additional $1.4 million.

The recent records have emerged in the wake of Mehretu’s 25-year traveling retrospective, co-organized in 2019 by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. About 75 paintings and works on paper, dating from 1996 were presented.

“Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” by Mehretu is a powerful work. The painting was on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2008, during Prospect.1, the inaugural New Orleans biennial. Speaking to the incredible strength and resilience of Black people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the large-scale composition is grounded by an architectural drawing with calligraphic marks adding dimension. An element of poetic triumph derives from the title, which was inspired by a Langston Hughes poem.

A premium example of Julie Mehretu’s layered, abstract compositions, ‘Walkers With the Dawn and Morning’ sold for more than $10.7 million. The record result is significant because Ethiopian-born, New York-based Mehretu sits at the top of the auction market in two categories. She already held the record for the most expensive work at auction by an African-born artist and a Black female artist living or dead.

Lot 6: JADÉ FADOJUTIMI, “Teeter towards me,” 2019 (oil on canvas, in two parts, 71 by 118 ¼ inches / 180.2 by 300.4 cm). | Estimate $600,000-$800,000. SOLD for $1,814,500 fees included


An animated nexus of dramatic color and energetic gestures, Fadojutimi’s “Teeter towards me” (2019) sold for $1.8 million, yielding more than twice the high estimate ($600,000-$800,000). The result was in record range for the artist. Earlier this month, “A Thistle Throb” (2021) by Fadojutimi set a new benchmark at Christie’s New York, selling for nearly $1.7 million on Nov. 7. That record was soon eclipsed when “Quirk my mannerism” (2021), which reached more than $1.9 million on Nov. 14 at Phillips New York.

Paintings by Fadojutimi have consistently performed well since her auction debut, just three years ago in 2020, and regularly set records often exponentially higher than the estimates. A fast-rising talent, Fadojutimi became the youngest artist to have her work represented in the collection of the Tate, when the London museum acquired “I Present Your Royal Highness” (2018) in 2019. She was 26 years old at the time. A few years later, Fadojutimi joined the mega-gallery Gagosian in 2022.

A major painting by Chicago-based Marshall, “Plunge” (1992) attracted only one bidder and sold for $10,275,500. Executed on an un-stretched canvas, the expansive work delivers the beauty and joy of a suburban swimming pool scene, complete with a diving board and manicured hedges. However, the many details embedded in the painting—including a “Private” sign on the gate, a tugboat named “Immamou,” and the words “Atlantic Ocean” etched in the surface of the pool water—reveal more ominous themes and racial trauma with references to segregated pools, the Middle Passage, and the transatlantic slave trade.

“Plunge” was one of three works in the auction consigned by Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, Chinese collectors who founded the Long Museum in 2012. The private museum now has three locations in Shanghai (West Bund and Pudong) and Chongqing. The collectors acquired the Marshall painting in 2016 from a Christie’s New York auction for $2.1 million, a new artist record at the time.


Lot 9: KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Plunge,” 1992 (acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 87 x 109 inches / 220.9 by 276.8 cm). | Estimate $9 million-$12 million. SOLD for $10,275,500 fees included


FOLLOWING SHORTLY THEREAFTER, the Contemporary Evening Auction presented masterworks produced in the second half of the 20th century through the present. Three works by Black artists were included in the 46-lot sale. The auction brought record-breaking results for Chase-Riboud and Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017).

“A Thousand Daddies” (2008) by Mark Bradford sold within the estimate for $2.4 million. An example of the Los Angeles artist’s Merchant Poster paintings, the abstract collage work is composed of 60 parts and deals with fatherhood and child custody issues. The painting had been in the collection of Chara Schreyer, the beloved collector of post-war and contemporary art who died earlier this year.

A member of the board of trustees at Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Schreyer kept art-filled homes in Los Angeles and Tiburon, near San Francisco. The first 16 lots in the Contemporary Evening Auction were from Schreyer’s holdings. Selections from the collection are spread across Sotheby’s November sales and will also be included in 2024 auctions.

Since the mid-1960s, Chase-Riboud has been producing an incredible body of work anchored by fluid metal sculptures. Adding cascades of silk cord and knotted wool to her bronze sculptural works introduced a stark contrast in materials and new frontiers of expression, focusing on memory and commemoration. Celebrated for decades, her large-scale abstract sculptures bring to bear a conceptual form of representation paying homage to a spectrum of cultural figures, including Malcolm X and Josephine Baker.

From Chase-Riboud’s La Musica, a sculpture series launched in the 1990s, “La Musica / Amnesia” (1990) is a memorial tribute to Baker, the American expatriate, who became a popular French actress and singer, and World War II spy for the French Resistance against the Nazis. A relatively modest-sized work standing about 27.5 inches, “La Musica / Amnesia” sold for a record-setting $647,700, more than five times the high estimate ($80,000-$120,000). The result is more than double the artist’s previous benchmark, set two years ago when “Zanzibar / Gold #2” (1977) sold for $255,877 (hammer price) at De Vuyst, an auction house in Lokeren, Belgium.

Celebrated for decades, Barbara Chase-Riboud’s large-scale abstract sculptures bring to bear a conceptual form of representation paying homage to a spectrum of cultural figures, including Malcolm X and Josephine Baker.


Lot 117: BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD, “La Musica / Amnesia,” 1990 (bronze with silver patina and gray silk, 27 1/2 X 7 X 7 inches / 69.9 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm). | Estimate $80,000-$120,000. SOLD for $647,700 fees included. RECORD


“La Musica / Amnesia,” the record-setting lot, was on view in “Barbara Chase-Riboud: African Rising,” a 1998 exhibition at Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans. The sculpture was acquired from the Black-owned gallery and remained in the same American collection for 25 years, before it was consigned for sale at Sotheby’s.

A Philadelphia-born artist and writer, Chase-Riboud lives between Paris and Rome. Recent books and exhibitions dedicated to her art have brought broader recognition over the past few years. After joining Hauser & Wirth in June, “Barbara Chase-Riboud: The Three Josephines” (Nov. 8-Dec. 23, 2023) is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery and the inaugural show at its new Soho location in New York.

Hendricks is renowned for the striking portraits he painted of his friends and acquaintances. Compelling studies of character, color, and self possession, the works dating primarily from the 1960s to 70s. Produced by Hendricks in 1975, “Yocks” features two men whose style of dress is the epitome of 1970s-era, “Super Fly” cool. The subject on the right wears a green leather, knee-length coat with wide, white fur lapels. He also appears in “Northern Lights” (1976), a triple portrait the artist produced in the following year. Hendricks referred to him as a “Boston-based brother.”

“Yocks” previously sold at auction on two occasions since the artist’s death in 2017. “Yocks” sold for $942,500 at Sotheby’s New York on May 19, 2017, one month after the artist died. Two years later, the painting reached more than $3.7 million on May 19, 2019, also at Sotheby’s New York. This time around the double portrait sold for $8,377,500. The record-smashing result surpassed Hendricks’s previous record at auction by $2.2 million (established when “Stanley,” his 1971 portrait of artist Stanley Whitney, sold for $6.1 million at Christie’s New York in May).

The Contemporary Evening Auction also featured three paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat. “Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two)” (1982) sold for $42 million and was the auction’s top lot. CT


THE NOW EVENING AUCTION | Lot 14: DAVID HAMMONS (b. 1943), “African American Flag,” 1990 (sewn fabric, 94 3/4 x 60 3/4 inches / 240.7 by 154.3 cm), Signed and numbered 1/10 upper right, This work is number 1 from an edition of 10 plus 2 artist’s proofs. | Estimate $1.5 million-$2 million. SOLD for $1,693,500 fees included


THE NOW EVENING AUCTION | Lot 16: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “A Focus For The Cavalry,” 2016 (oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 78 3/4 inches / 130 by 200 cm). | $800,000-$1.2 million. SOLD for $952,500 fees included


CONTEMPORARY EVENING AUCTION | Lot 111: MARK BRADFORD (b. 1961), “A Thousand Daddies,” 2008 (mixed media collage on paper, 60 parts, Each: 22 x 28 inches / 55.9 by 71.1 cm), Overall: 132 x 280 inches / 335.3 x 711.2 cm). | Estimate $2 million-$3 million. SOLD for $2,400,000 fees included


CONTEMPORARY EVENING AUCTION | Lot 118: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Yocks,” 1975 (oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 1/8 x 48 inches / 183.2 x 121.9 cm). | Estimate $4 million-$6 million. SOLD for $8,377,500 fees included. RECORD


“Julie Mehretu” documents the artist’s 25-year traveling retrospective. Recent publications exploring the life and work of Barbara Chase-Riboud include “I Always Knew: A Memoir,” “Barbara Chase-Riboud Monumentale: The Bronzes,” and “Infinite Folds,” which is forthcoming in 2024. Also consider the exhibition catalog “Barbara Chase-Riboud / Alberto Giacometti: Standing Woman of Venice/Standing Black Woman of Venice” (French/English). “The Great Mrs. Elias” is a historical novel by Chase-Riboud. “Kerry James Marshall: The Complete Prints: 1976–2022” is a new publication and “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” accompanied the artist’s 30-year retrospective. “Jadé Fadojutimi: Jesture” is the young British artist’s first published book. Also consider, “Mark Bradford (Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series);” and “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day,” which documents the artist’s Venice Biennale exhibition in 2017. A new volume co-authored by Aimee Ng and Antwaun Sargent, “Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at The Frick” was published on the occasion of the artist’s current exhibition at Frick Madison in New York.


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