Inside the Wild West auction for Ernie Barnes’ ‘The Sugar Shack’

And now, forces within the art market are betting big on an artist who once struggled to get out of sales at auction houses like Swann’s, which focuses on African-American artists. On Thursday, New York galleries Ortuzar Projects and Andrew Kreps, along with talent agency partner art company UTA Fine Art, announced they will all jointly represent the Barnes estate moving forward.

The $15 million price tag clearly beat even the most ambitious estimates, but there are signs the market will only get stronger. No one is more optimistic than the man who has just spent a sum of money on a painting 80 times what the auction house thought it would sell for.

“Imagine if a guy came to own the Mona Lisa, or monet’s Lily pads—if someone said, ‘Yeah, I bought it for a thousand dollars, and it’s on the wall in my living room,’” Perkins said. “That would be an amazing story, right? Well that’s me.

Barnes’ meteoric rise dates back to 2018, when the African American Museum of California began planning the artist’s first museum show in decades.

“African Americans who were familiar with Good times, they remember how important that painting was to their psyche,” he said. Bridget R. Cooks, the show’s curator and professor at the University of California, Irvine. And the centerpiece of the show was The Sugar Shack.

The show aroused the interest of arthur lewis, the head of UTA Fine Art, the visual arts arm of the venerable Los Angeles talent agency. He eventually struck up a conversation with light rodriguez, The longtime assistant trustee of the Barnes estate, and they reached an agreement to put on a show at the Beverly Hills outpost in 2019. After a brief pandemic delay, it opened in late 2020, and one of the fans was Andrew Kreps, who found his way into the job despite admitting that Barnes’s work “isn’t usually what I show” and that he was “a little bit out of the art world”.

“I bumped into him during the pandemic after the UTA show and thought, oh right, Good times,he said. “But I really, really loved it. So I went over to the estate and we put on a show.”

One day, Kreps’ fellow Tribeca merchant, Ale Ortuzar, I went in to see some of the work the property had submitted. While Kreps mostly represents living artists, and some of them are quite young, Ortuzar, since leaving David Zwirner to open his own gallery in 2018, has focused on underrated artists who have yet to receive recognition in New York. York. They agreed to present the show together, in the shared space at 55 Walker Street.

To his surprise, sales were strong. Kreps said he sold one work to a serious collector who installed it in his home alongside a major painting by Jacob Lawrence, the black artist whose work sold for up to $6 million. Y the sugar shack He also exchanged hands while hanging out at the Kreps show. While the painting was not technically for sale, when it opened on September 24, it was owned by the California couple. Jeannie and Jim Epstein, who bought it in 1986. But many sources indicated that the Epsteins were not the consignors of the $15.3 million Ernie Barnes. When he spoke with Kreps, he explained that while the Epsteins owned the work when they loaned it to the show and that it was not for sale, when the show closed on October 30, it was owned by another entity. And that entity consigned it to Christie’s a few months later.

After the hammer fell on the sugar shack, Perkins was immediately besieged. Codie, the filmmaker whose decades in the making kanye-west documentary film, Jean Yuhs, was a surprise Netflix hit, it moved its camera to track Perkins as he walked across the room. (Before Barnes died, Kanye commissioned him to do a painting commemorating the fact that he survived a near-fatal car accident, and the finished work features a winged angel-like figure that bears a striking resemblance to Kanye West.) a group of journalists, Perkins addressed a series of art dealers and advisers, many of whom speculated that Jensen had been on the phone with Melody Hobson, the wife of George Lucas—the two are longtime Ernie Barnes collectors, and have been on a shopping spree before opening their Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles next year. At one point, Christie’s CEO William Ceruti came over to offer his congratulations in person, a rare honor to bestow on any bidder, winner or not.

“I’m the CEO of Christie’s,” Christie’s CEO told Perkins.

“I’m, um, really excited right now,” Perkins said. “Either he wanted it, or he wanted that guy to pay.”

Despite the sky-high price, when I spoke to Perkins a few days after the sale, with some time to reflect, he still felt that he not only paid a fair price for the job, but got it much cheaper than he expected. worth.

“I can’t loot this piece as cheaply as I used to, but I looted nonetheless,” Perkins said. “When people are biased, that’s how they underestimate things. But I can take the metrics they use to value art and easily show that this is a $100 million painting.”

the summary

Your crib sheet for the comings and goings in the art world this week and beyond…

…For the first time, MoMA PS1 held its annual gala at the old school the museum operates in Long Island City, a raucous update to the usual lobby revelry at its big brother, MoMA, in Midtown. “This is Queens, and when you’re here you hear the subway,” director kate fowle he said during a speech, after being temporarily drowned by the overloading of the 7 train. But on that day, Queens had a distinct Manhattan energy of masters of the universe, as the Soroses, the Lauders, the Speyers, the Kravises, the Fulds, the Aarons and the Dubins bought tables. Artists in attendance included honorees. Rashid Johnson, Deana Lawson, Y Djali Brown-Cepeda, plus Taryn Simon, Julie Mehretu, Chase Hall, Kayode Ojo, Odili Donald Odita, Hugh Hayden, Marie Karlberg, Fred Eversley, and so many more.

…A seasoned Frieze New York attendee would no doubt have seen both great paintings from the highly sought-after artist issy Wood at the Carlos/Ishikawa stand, his former London gallery. But eagle-eyed fairgoers also spotted one hanging on the walls of Michael Werner’s booth, and a director confirmed that Wood will be working with the gallery in the future. A stellar choice for all involved!

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