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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Beauford's Abstraction Sells at Skinner Auction in Boston

A few weeks ago, Kathy Wong - Specialist, American & European Works of Art Skinner, Inc. - contacted Les Amis to inform me of the impending sale of a beautiful Beauford Delaney abstract at auction on May 16, 2014. I immediately asked about publishing a blog post about the painting and any back story associated with it. The consignor of the painting (who wishes to remain anonymous) shared the following:

Signed and dated "Beauford Delaney 1969" l.r.
Identified on a label from Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris,
affixed to the backing.
Gouache on paper, sight size 25 3/4 x 19 1/2 in. (65.4 x 49.5 cm), framed
Image courtesy of Skinner
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

My ex-husband was a stringer for Time Magazine in London in 1973. He was assigned an article about African-American expats in Europe, and I was lucky enough to go along for the ride to Paris, the French Riviera, and Switzerland. He interviewed Beauford Delaney, Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, and many others on that assignment.

Mr. Delaney was in a difficult phase in his life, and was to be institutionalized fairly shortly after we met him. We took him to dinner and enjoyed a long wonderful evening of stories and anecdotes about the contrast of life in the US and France for African Americans. We walked him back to his attic in Montparnasse and climbed the 5 or 6 stories with him to be sure he was safely home.

As we turned to leave he reached into a stack of rolled up drawings and handed one to me. That's when we both determined to acquire more of his work and support him as much as we could.

Of course, we were very young and unable to afford even the low cost of his paintings then, but it remained a dream and we did, along the way, buy several pieces, including the lovely gouache I'm selling, and a portrait of James Baldwin along with a few others that belong to my ex. I still have the charcoal drawing.

Signature for Abstraction
Image courtesy of Skinner
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

At the time we were told of the painting I'm selling, in the mid 1990's, we would have bought anything by Delaney.

As I mentioned earlier, the French government had been holding his work in probate for many years, and there was nothing on the market. The Studio Museum of Harlem had a wonderful retrospective of his work in 1978, the year before he died, and we began discussions with the museum to buy one of the large landscapes from that exhibit. Then Mr. Delaney died and France stepped in and our negotiations ground to a slow and agonizing halt.

It was at least a decade before there was any chance of getting a piece by him. We eventually got the small gouache in the mid 90's and I was happy for the chance of having a Delaney after all that time.

I adore the painting. It is always a patch of sunlight wherever it is hung, and brightens everything in the room.

Abstraction was made available for sale as Lot 627 during Skinner Auction American & European Works of Art - 2728B in Boston on May 16th. It sold for $11,685, buyer's premium* included. The estimated sale price was $5,000-7,000.

*At auction, there are two prices--the hammer price, or the price at which the item sells during the auction, and the price with the buyer's premium. All auction houses have a buyer's premium that the buyer pays to the auction house on top of the hammer price. Skinner's premium is 23% for sales up to and including $100,000.

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