Earth moves for African-Americans
ON THE invitation card to Tate Modern’s Art in the Age of Black Power, which opened last week in London, is a 1966 self-portrait by Barkley L Hendricks, then aged 21, wearing just his shades and a Superman T-shirt.
As with most black artists, Hendricks had a marginal position in the market during the period covered by the exhibition (1963-1983) and for years after. But when he began exhibiting with the trailblazing Jack Shainman Gallery in New York in 2005, he began to attract attention, starring in the Nasher Museum’s The Birth of the Cool exhibition (2008), and at New York’s Swann Galleries’ auctions of African-American art, where his top price rose from $10 000 in 2008 to $365 000 in 2015.
Then, just after he died earlier this year, three of his paintings broke the record at Sotheby’s selling for up to $960 500 (about R12.5-million) for
inspired by Renaissance portraits he had seen at the Uffizi in Florence.
Although Hendricks has only three works in this encyclopaedic show, it acknowledges the tectonic shift that has been taking place in the market for black American artists. —
SHADES OF MEANING: Self-portrait by Barkley L Hendricks, star of Art in the Age of Black Power