Venus and Serena Williams auction iconic Ernie Barnes’ paintings

The sisters acquired the works directly from the Barnes estate several years ago.

Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and their sister Isha Price have consigned four rare works from acclaimed artist Ernie Barnes as part of a charity auction.

The sisters acquired the works directly from the Barnes estate several years ago. According to Art News, bidding on the never-before-seen art will open from July 24 to Aug.1 on Joopiter, a digital auction house that Pharrell Williams founded. 

HISTORYTalks 2022
Venus Williams and Serena Williams attend HISTORYTalks 2022 on Sept. 24, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for History)

The auction consists of two paintings, “Holding Court” (1986), which carries a pre-sale estimate between $80,000 to $120,000, and “Mentors” (2008), which has a pre-sale estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. The are also two drawings, “Saxophone Study #1” (1993) and “Study for Brother to Brother” (1994), Art News reports.

“Ernie Barnes is an iconic Black artist my family and I have long admired,” Serena Williams said in a statement, per Art News.

“Through his vibrant imagery, he envisioned a colorful world of harmony between all communities, backgrounds, and races,” she added. 

The charity auction will benefit the Yetunde Price Resource Center, which the sisters founded in 2018 in honor of their half-sister Yetunde, who was “tragically killed by an act of senseless violence in 2003,” according to the organization’s website.

“These never-before-seen works of Ernie Barnes will help fund and provide vital resources to those affected by violence in Compton and underserved communities across the country,” Serena Williams stated. 

“This collaboration allows us to share our deep love of art in a way that enriches and empowers the broader community,’ said Venus Williams in a statement, per Art News.

“Ernie Barnes’ artwork played a profound role in creating societal change, and we hope this partnership will similarly inspire, uplift, and make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals and the communities we serve,” she added. 

Barnes painted throughout his NFL career, and when he retired in 1965, he relocated to Los Angeles and began painting full-time. He described his signature style as “neo-mannerist,” focusing on the everyday joy of Black people depicted as elongated, fluid figures.

Barnes’ iconic dance-hall painting, “The Sugar Shack,” appeared in the credits of the 1970s sitcom “Good Times.” 

The artwork sold at a Christie’s auction in New York City last year for a record-breaking $15.2 million, theGrio reported. Marvin Gaye also used the painting as the cover art for his album, “I Want You.” 

Barnes died in 2009 from complications of a rare blood disorder.

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