Ernie Barnes 1938-2009
The works of Ernie Barnes are garnering more attention than ever in the art market. At Christie’s May auction, his 1976 Sugar Shack painting skyrocketed way above its its $150,000 low to finish at $15.3 million. Bill Perkins, the collector who bought Sugar Shack, outbid twenty-two other collectors.
The work became famous when it was used in the opening of the Good Times television sitcom and as the cover of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You album.
The painting really resonated with Perkins. In his desire to bring more attention to the works of Ernie Barnes, the Houston- based collector has loaned the painting to the Houston Museum.
A few other paintings by Barnes have come up for auction, garnering seven-figure bids.
Solid Rock Congregation, a work he did for a friend who was a Gospel singer, will be auctioned at Bonhams in September.
Ernie Barnes was the first, and probably the only, pro football player to become widely known and extremely successful in the art world. He grew up in Durham, North Carolina, won a football scholarship to North Carolina Central, and majored in art.
He played football until an injury cut his career short in 1965. He then became the official artist of the NFL.
Barnes used elongated figures and joyful subjects in his works. He often painted his subjects with their eyes closed, a symbol of, he said, “how blind we are to one another’s humanity.”
Marc Chagall 1887-1985
Works from Marc Chagall’s estate set auction records at Christie’s London last month. According to the auction house, “The sale explored five key themes that dominated Chagall’s practice: the rhythms and rituals of his home town; the circus; the heroic figures of myth, legend and religion; the universal questions of identity and legacy; and, above all else, the enduring power of love.”
One of the final works that Chagall painted before he died Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs (The painter and the three-color bride and groom), sold for £1,602,000 at Christie’s London-Paris auction.
The Editors of Artnews. Ernie Barnes Painting Heads to Bonhams, Climate Activists Hit Another U.K. Museum, and More: Morning Links for July 6, 2022. ARTnews. July 6, 2022.
Victoria L. Valentine. Ernie Barnes Iconic ‘Sugar Shack” Painting on Loan to Houston Museum One Month After Record-Shattering Auction Sale. Culture Type. July 14, 2022.
Scott Rayburn. London Modern and Contemporary Auctions: A Market Minus the Froth. The New York Times. July 1, 2022.