Painting made famous by ‘Good Times’ sells for $15.2M, more than the Monet up for bid
"The Sugar Shack," the iconic Ernie Barnes painting also on the cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" LP, was sold to Bill Perkins at a Christie’s auction.
The iconic dance-hall painting seen in the credits of the 1970s sitcom Good Times sold at a Christie’s auction in New York City Thursday for a record-breaking $15.2 million.
As noted by The Los Angeles Times, Ernie Barnes’ adored 1976 acrylic-on-canvas piece known as The Sugar Shack appeared in the fifth and sixth seasons of the classic 1970s sitcom. Marvin Gaye also used the painting as the cover art for his classic hit album, “I Want You.”
According to Christie’s auction house, the painting sold for 76 times its estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 and had 22 bidders interested. It was sold to Houston-based energy trader Bill Perkins after 10 minutes of bidding. Per The New York Times, the price was “more than double that of a Cézanne in the sale, and more than a Monet and a de Kooning.”
“I would have paid a lot more,” Perkins told The New York Times following the auction. “For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the Mona Lisa.”
“My life has so far been a happy absurdity,” Perkins tweeted Friday amid reports that he was the highest bidder of the prized painting.
The collector already owns several works by Barnes and other prominent Black artists, according to Artnet.
“I’m walking away with the treasure while everybody is fighting over a Warhol or a Monet,” he declared.
The Sugar Shack features a gathering of Black revelers enjoying themselves at the Durham Armory, a dance hall in segregated North Carolina, in 1952. Barnes, who died of leukemia in 2009 at age 70, said in a 2002 interview that he got the idea for his painting after reflecting on his childhood and “not being able to go to a dance I wanted to go to when I was 11.”
“We were so pleased to see such phenomenal performances by an incredibly diverse group of 20th-century artists in our sale this evening,” Emily Kaplan, co-head of the 20th Century Evening Sale, said in a statement Thursday.
“We were also thrilled by the outstanding performance by Ernie Barnes,” she maintained. “The Sugar Shack soared past its high estimate of $200,000 to sell for $15.2 million, nearly 28 times his previous auction record.”
“This image has been in my consciousness since I was a kid,” Perkins admitted. “I have an emotional connection to it.”
“I never thought I could own this piece. As I got in a position where I could buy it, I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could own this iconic piece of American history, a very important, significant work,” Perkins said of the experience.
“If I did a survey, and I put a picture of The Mona Lisa and a picture of The Sugar Shack side by side,” Perkins contended, “in my group of African Americans, they’re going to remember The Sugar Shack more than anything else.”
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