New York – Under the hammer in a dedicated auction on Friday, September 9, Solid Rock Congregation (1993) by Ernie Barnes (1938-2009) shattered its estimate when it sold for $1,620,375. This masterpiece by the artist drew in bidders from around the world as energetic as the subjects in the work and proved that the market remains strong for the breakout star of the spring auction season. Previously unseen by the public, Solid Rock Congregation is an exemplary painting in Barnes’ oeuvre, depicting the movement and passion of a Sunday morning church scene in the American South.
“This work by Barnes is truly special and it was an honor to be able to give it the moment it deserves,” commented Andrew Huber, Director and Head of Sale for Post-War & Contemporary Art at Bonhams New York. “We knew it was going to attract a lot of interest, but I’m truly blown away by the response. The concept of a single lot auction is still new territory for Bonhams and especially with successes like this, we are excited to see what we can do with the format.”
The painting was commissioned by and has been in the possession of American gospel singer Margaret Bell, who is depicted in the work singing into the microphone and was friends with Barnes. A former professional football player, Barnes pivoted full-time to art when he retired from the NFL and became well known for his unique style of movement and elongated forms. The market for his work, which had previously appeared throughout pop culture on album covers, in television and movies, skyrocketed this spring including at Bonhams where his painting, The Maestro, sold for $882,375, breezing far beyond estimates.