By Mackie Healy, Art Market Views Contributor
Norman Lewis’ 1946 brown-hued Cubist riff, Bassist, fetched $48,000 yesterday at the Swann Auction Galleries in New York. The piece, estimated to sell for as much as $75,000, was the top lot at the Out of the Blue: Modern Art and Jazz auction.
The Lewis painting was among 54 lots sold yesterday for $391,620, below the sale’s overall projected low estimate. The sale was estimated to total between $475,100 and $728,400. Nearly a third of lots failed to find buyers.
Bassist is one the earliest abstracted jazz musicians that Norman Lewis painted between 1945 and 1946. This was the first to come to auction, according to Swann’s catalog. The archetypal jazz musicians series were the last works by Lewis to portray an explicit jazz theme, because his pieces became heavily abstracted as his career progressed.
The sale was comprised of figurative and abstract art influenced by blues, jazz, and improvisation. It included silver print photographs of famous jazz legends including Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Betty Carter and Miles Davis.
Paintings by Romare Bearden were plentiful. A section of the catalog was devoted to his works and four out the top ten highest grossing lots belonged to him.
His 1975, Jazz Musician at Piano, sold for $30,000, exceeding the high estimate of $15,000 – $25,000. A 1977 collage titled Back Porch Serenade failed to sell. It was estimate to go for $60,000-$90,0000 but the auctioneer was unable to find a bidder after opening bids at $44,000.
Here are the remaining top nine lots (prices include the buyer’s premium):
2. Romare Bearden, Jazz Musician at Piano, circa 1975 - $30,000
3. Charles Alston, Untitled (Cityscape at Night), circa 1950-55 - $24,600
4. Romare Bearden, Trumpet Player, circa 1980 – $24,000
5. Norman Lewis, Untitled (Abstract Cityscape), 1949 - $21,600
6. Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Composition in Blue), 1961 – $19,200
Ernie Barnes, Song of Myself, circa 1970 – $19,200
7. Norman Lewis, City Night, 1949 – $18,000
8. Charles White, Folksinger, 1958 – $16,800
9. Romare Bearden, Storyville: Special Request, circa 1975 – $15,600
10. Romare Bearden, Jamming at the Savoy, 1981-82 – $13,200