‘The Sugar Shack’ Dances to Record $15.3M Sale at Christie’s

‘The Sugar Shack’ Dances to Record $15.3M Sale at Christie’s

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A celebration of the joy found in dance, The Sugar Shack, by American artist Ernie Barnes, shimmied off as the biggest surprise of Christie’s 20th Century auction May 12, selling for $15.3 million, or 76 times its high estimate of $200,000.

The painting was featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album, “I Want You,” and during the closing credits of the 1970s hit TV sitcom “Good Times.”

Although the painting sold well-past its pre-auction estimate, Bill Perkins, the 53-year-old energy trader who purchased the 1976 painting, told The New York Times, “I stole it – I would have paid a lot more. For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the Mona Lisa.”

Bill Perkins and fiancé Lara Sebastian with Ernie Barnes’ ‘The Sugar Shack’ at Christie’s. Perkins paid $15.3 million for the 1976 painting. 

The sale reflects a heightened interest in work by Black artists. Just last November, Barnes’ 1978 painting Ballroom Soul sold for $550,000, a short-lived record for the artist.

Also making news at the Christie’s event, Washington Crossing the Delaware – perhaps the most recognizable painting in U.S. history, sold for more than $45 million. The 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze hung in the White House from the 1970s to 2014. It is one of three versions painted by Leutze, famously capturing the moment when General George Washington boldly led his troops across the half-frozen Delaware River to Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas night 1776. Pre-auction estimates for the painting ranged between $15-$20 million.

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