This week in Black Art and Culture: Ernie Barnes, Viola Davis and Michael Armitage

This Week in Black Art and Culture is sponsored by The Children’s Trust



Above: Ernie Barnes The Sugar Shack 1976. Acrylic on canvas 36 in. x 48 in. Collection of Bill Perkins. © Ernie Barnes Family Trust.

The Sugar Shack makes a record-breaking sale. Jamal Edwards, the founder of U.K. music platform SB.TV, this year is to receive the Music Industry Trusts Award. Viola Davis is named the 2022 Women In Motion Award recipient at Cannes Film Festival. Artist Michael Armitage is slated to design a new £1 coin for 2023. Read more in this week’s Black Art and Culture.

The Sugar Shack Debuts at Christie’s 

Ernie Barnes‘ The Sugar Shack (1976) sold at Christie’s auction house for a record-setting $15.2 million on May 12, above the high estimate by 76 percent. This was the first time Barnes’ work was shown at Christie’s evening sale, according to the company.

The image of The Sugar Shack has become well-known, thanks to its inclusion on Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album I Want You and its use in four seasons of the comedy Good Times, which followed the lives of a destitute family in the Chicago housing projects. 

Christie’s auction house confirmed that the painting was sold to Bill Perkins, a hedge fund investor and entrepreneur, following 10 minutes of bidding by more than 22 bidders. Barnes, who died in 2009, was an accomplished artist and athlete born in North Carolina in 1938.

A comparable Barnes painting from Danny and Donna Arnold’s collection, Ballroom Soul, sold for $550,000 at Christie’s in November. Until Perkins’ purchase, this was the highest sum ever paid, according to a Christie’s representative. The projected selling price ranged between $80,000 and $120,000.

Pool Hall (circa. 1970) sold for $131,250 on May 10 at Heritage’s American Art Signature Auction in Dallas, making it Barnes’ eighth-highest auction price. On May 13, Christie’s sold Storm Dance (1977) for $2.34 million at its postwar and contemporary art day sale, beating the top estimate of $150,000 by 1,460 percent. On May 26, Bonhams New York will auction The Maestro (1971). The Crusaders adopted the painting as the cover for their 1984 album Ghetto Blasters. It has a high estimate of $35,000 at Bonhams.

The artist’s estate on Thursday morning signed a representation agreement with Andrew Kreps and Ortuzar Projects in New York. Sugar Shack was included in a 2021 exhibition co-organized by Andrew Kreps Gallery and Ortuzar Projects, and another show will be held at Ortuzar Projects in 2023.

MITs Award Goes to Jamal Edwards

This year’s Music Industry Trusts Award will go to Jamal Edwards, the founder of U.K. music platform SB.TV. He’ll be the first posthumous recipient and the youngest. The award will be presented to Edwards’ family on Monday, Nov. 7 at a gala ceremony in The Great Room, Grosvenor House Hotel, in aid of the BRIT Trust, Nordoff Robbins, and The Jamal Edwards Self Belief Trust, a charity established by Edward’s family in 2022 to honor his memory and continue his incredible legacy. 

The Trust’s goals are to support causes that were most important to Edwards. The Trust will focus on three interconnected areas: combating homelessness, assisting people with mental health difficulties, and providing critical life skills to young people.

SB.TV helped start the careers of several of the U.K.’s top performers, including Ed Sheeran, Dave, Stormzy, Jessie J, and Emeli Sandé by establishing a platform for emerging British artists. The SB.TV YouTube channel has 1.23 million subscribers and is still growing as of 2022.

Edwards continued to be hailed after receiving an MBE for services to music in 2015. Edwards served as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, and alongside Prince William and Prince Harry, he helped develop the Queen’s Young Leaders Program. Edwards launched a collaboration with the Department of Education in 2020, which resulted in a three-part campaign encouraging young creatives to consider an apprenticeship. 

In 2021, he was named Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Sussex after receiving an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of West London.

Co-chair of the MITs Award committee Toby Leighton-Pope, said, “Jamal Edwards changed the face of the music industry in his 31 years, his achievements could be on par with someone 60 years into the business. His influence on the music scene as it is today should never be underestimated, just look at some of the U.K.’s biggest artists, tours and hits today, and Jamal will have played a part in some way. That’s why he is so deserving of this year’s MITs Award. Myself, Dan and the MITs Committee would like to thank the Edwards family for their gracious involvement in the MITs this year. We will celebrate Jamal’s incredible legacy at the ceremony in November and continue to raise funds for the MITs charities The BRIT Trust and Nordoff Robbins. This year, we will also be donating funds for The Jamal Edwards Self Belief Trust.”

Viola Davis 2022 Women In Motion Award 

Viola Davis will receive the 2022 Women In Motion Award from Kering Group and the Cannes Film Festival. 

Kering Group released a joint statement with the Festival de Cannes, further announcing that the award will be presented during the official Women In Motion luncheon in Cannes on Sunday, May 22 by François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, Pierre Lescure, president of the Festival de Cannes, and Thierry Frémaux, executive director of the Festival de Cannes. Davis is one of the few people in Hollywood to have won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, four SAG Awards, and the Triple Crown of Acting: two Tony Awards, an Oscar, and an Emmy for her roles in the stage play King Hedley II, the film adaptation of Fences, and the television series How to Get Away with Murder. This incredible feat also makes her the most nominated African American actress in the fields of theater, television and film.

A committed activist, Viola Davis regularly has called for greater inclusion in the film industry and campaigned for gender equality. In January 2018, she took part in a Women’s March that included female politicians, women in the film industry and feminists, along with members of the public.

Finding Me, Viola Davis’ autobiography, was just released. The book quickly rose to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Finding Me is a deeply personal story written during lockdown that depicts her childhood in a poor neighborhood, growing up against almost insurmountable difficulties. Viola Davis describes what she saw and experienced during her childhood and youth, highlighting the harassment and abuse faced by the most disadvantaged people in society. She also illustrates how to embrace your past while finding your own path in life.


Previous winners include Jane Fonda, Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Isabelle Huppert, Patty Jenkins, Gong Li and Salma Hayek. 

Artist Michael Armitage to Design New £1 Coin 

Michael Armitage will design a new £1 coin that will enter circulation in early 2023, according to Rishi Sunak. 

The design will become the regular circulating £1 coin, with world-leading, high-security features to prevent counterfeiting. The new 12-sided £1 coin has been changed for the first time since its release in 2017. At a reception to commemorate the launch of the Royal College of Art’s design and innovation campus, U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered the news. The chancellor chose Armitage after consulting an impartial team of experts in currency design and art, which was formed to evaluate the creative merits and concepts underlying designs submitted by selected contenders.

Armitage was named a Royal Academician in the category of painting in January by the Royal Academy of Arts in London. In May 2022, Armitage will have a major solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel, which then will travel to the White Cube gallery in London in September. Armitage’s upcoming design for the new currency, Chancellor Sunak added, “will symbolize the rich tapestry of modern Britain and honor our deep heritage and history.” Armitage grew up in Kenya as the son of a Yorkshireman and a Kikuyu mother before studying painting in the United Kingdom.

Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade

You May Also Like