BLACK ARTISTS dominate New York spring sales : Ever overlooked youngsters get recognition like never before.

Black artists are represented like never before at New York's spring sales next week after years of being overlooked and under appreciated, with several expected to set new records for their works.

American-born Jean-Michel Basquiat, of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, becomes the first Black painter to headline both Christie's and Sotheby's main auctions, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The 1983 'In This Case', part of his trilogy of ''skull'' paintings, and his 1982 work 'Versus Medici' are expected to fetch around $50 million each during the virtual auctions.

The late Robert Colescott, renowned for expressionist paintings that dealt with Black identity and history, is expected to increase his record tenfold., with his 1975 ''George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware :

Page from an American History Textbook, estimated at up to $12 million. Works by Norman Lewis, Mark Bradford and Kerry James Marshall are all anticipated to top $1 million.

David Galperin, head of evening sales for contemporary art at Sotheby's in New York, said a ''historical reevaluation'' and growing visibility in galleries and museums is boosting the popularity of marginalized artists.

''There's a sense of increased market appreciation and demand that correlates with prices that we're seeing at auction,'' he told AFP.

Jay-Z, Kanye

Rapper and producer Swiss Beatz is considered a pioneer, while Sean Combs, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West are also recognised as major collectors. ''It's all about culture. Hip Hop was a cultural phenomenon and they were early adopters and taste makers,'' Galperin added.

Another contributing factor was the shift in the 1990s from art being a collectors' market to an investors market. As the supply of works by traditional artists, almost all white, dried up, investors turned to minority artists at attractive prices to boost their portfolios. 

''That's when Black art began to really take off,'' said Edmiston. 

Artists such as Basquiat, Marshall and Jacob Lawrence have, in their own way, opened a window into an element of American life that was missing from mainstream art - the experience of being Black in the United States.

''A lot of the art that we are seeing today could not have happened without a group of artists that kind of broke through and sort of changed the dialogue around art,'' said Ana Maria Celis, head of 21st century evening sales at Christie's.

She considers 32-year-old Jordan Casteel as among the heirs of this movement, which is ''challenging existing notions of what art should say or how it should be made.''

Cellis noted, '' The art that is being made today by these artists are reflective of the times. They want to push forward conversations that might have been uncomfortable.''

The push to buy works by Black artists, resulting in a steady stream of records over the past three years, has seen prizes go away above their initial estimates, a rare phenomenon at top auctions. 

''There's a tendency along the lines of, 'If it's Black it's great,'' said Edmiston, adding that he favours a distinction between artists and the quality of their work. He even thinks that the market might be overheating.

''At the same time, I realize I could be way off and most likely I am,'' he said, smiling.

The World Students Society thanks AFP, and News Desk The Express Tribune.


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