After a $15.3 Million Auction Sale, Ernie Barnes Collectors Might Soon Try to Cash in. Can the Market Survive a Flood?


A painting by artist and former NFL participant Ernie Barnes stole the present at Christie’s 20th century night sale last week. Intense competitors for the 1976 work, The Sugar Shack, drove the selling price up to 76 instances its large estimate, an astonishing $15.3 million. The painting, which appeared on the address of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album I Want You and in the 1970s television display Good Instances, depicts a joyful crowd dancing to are living new music.

Barnes is known for his lively paintings of African American life in his signature “neo-mannerist” design and style, depicting tasteful, lengthy, fluid figures with just about balletic limbs.

Off the back again of the sale, it was declared that Barnes’s estate would be represented by New York galleries Ortuzar Tasks and Andrew Kreps, which co-arranged an exhibition of the artist’s do the job last year. Artnet News’s Katya Kazakina also discovered that Ortuzar Jobs operator Ales Ortuzar was actually the consignor of The Sugar Shack, suggesting that the market place minute for Barnes may possibly have been much more carefully orchestrated than it appeared. 

We took the chance to appraise Barnes’s sparse market record from the Artnet price tag database. Here’s what we discovered. 


The Context

Auction Record: $15.3 million, attained at Christie’s in May well 2022 

Barnes’s Overall performance in 2021

Loads sold: 15

Acquired in: 2

Offer-as a result of rate: 88.2 p.c

Common sale price: $139,494 

Imply estimate: $38,467

Full gross sales: $2 million

Top portray price: $550,000

Most affordable portray rate: $14,000 

Most affordable overall rate: $14,000, for the portray Race Day.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Throughout the world Company.


The Appraisal

  1. Faithful next. For the duration of his life span, several figures in the athletics and enjoyment worlds collected Barnes. His operate was well-known among the athletes in the ‘70s and ‘80s and actors which includes Eddie Murphy, who owns the sister painting to The Sugar Shack. A lot of consumers, this sort of as Los Angeles collector Jim Epstein (who marketed a group of will work to Ortuzar 6 months ago), acquired works straight from the artist and have held on to them for decades. Nowadays, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Artwork owns a lot more than 10 paintings by Barnes, and the upcoming largest institutional holding is at the California African American Museum.
  2. Illustration matters. Prior to 2008, Barnes’s function had only occur to auction four times. Then, in 2019, UTA Wonderful Arts started symbolizing his estate, and matters began to modify. A important Barnes exhibition at UTA Artist Room in 2020, which Barnes curated just before his demise, introduced his get the job done to new collectors.
  3. Payoff. 2021 was a landmark yr for Barnes’s industry the place the fruits of the promotion began to fork out off. His function lastly cracked the $100,000 mark at auction and even set a new auction history with the $550,000 sale of Ballroom Soul (1978), at Christie’s New York in November. Eighteen of his major 20 sales have all happened in the earlier two many years, and very last week was a huge instant for Barnes’s estate. Aside from The Sugar Shack, Christie’s also marketed Storm Dance (1977) at its postwar and modern day sale for $2.3 million (from a superior estimate of $150,000), and Heritage offered Pool Hall (ca. 1970) for $131,250.  
  4. Balletic Bodies. Barnes’s most sought-immediately after will work are paintings not dissimilar to The Sugar Shack, with common popular themes currently being team scenes that includes elaborate compositions of several figures, and the balletic bodies that feature in his “Basketball” and “Football” series.
  5. Industry Playbook. The Barnes estate is considered to keep hundreds of paintings, and, natch, sizzling off the auction achievement very last 7 days arrived the announcement that Barnes’s estate is now repped by New York galleries Andrew Kreps and Ortuzar Assignments. The galleries are already altering the key market price ranges to reflect the demand from customers at auction, and Kreps bought a 1987 do the job, Study for the Assist, at Frieze New York for $75,000, telling Katya Kazakina that, a couple of months ago, it would have charge 50 % that total. 
Ernie Barnes, <i>Cool Quarterback</i> (1991). Courtesy the Estate of Ernie Barnes, Andrew Kreps, New York, and Ortuzar Projects, New York.

Ernie Barnes, Awesome Quarterback (1991). Courtesy the Estate of Ernie Barnes, Andrew Kreps, New York, and Ortuzar Tasks, New York.

Bottom Line

The steep incline of Barnes’s current market around the past 3 several years can be attributed to the best storm of things: securing gallery representation and gamers vested in producing a coherent sector tactic, achieved with wider traits of reappraising overlooked artists from the previous century and amplified curiosity in narrative and figurative art.

There will no doubt be a flood of Barnes operates coming to auction from other collectors seeking to money in, and it remains to be seen no matter whether the current market could endure a shake out.

Quite a few tons value looking at will strike the block on Thursday, May perhaps 26, including a 1971 perform titled The Maestro, which will most likely blow previous its large estimate of $35,000 when it comes up at Bonhams New York. In the meantime, Christie’s Hong Kong will supply Hear Up (1980) with an estimate of HKD$800,000–HKD$1,200,000 ($101,912–$152,868), and there’s no telling what will occur when the increasing sector fulfills the level of competition from Asian bidders. The income will no doubt make added promoting electricity for the joint exhibition Kreps and Ortuzar are arranging for 2023, and UTA Artist Area has also declared an exhibition in Februrary 2023.

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