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Museum of Fine Arts to Auction Significant Group of Works by African-American Artists

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Charles White, Trumpet Player, charcoal and gouache on board, 1959-60. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) plans to auction a significant group of works by African-American artists to benefit its permanent collection, according to a statement from the MFA.

On February 14, 2013 Swann Auction Galleries in New York City will host its first African-American Fine Art sale of the year, featuring Meeting Place, the first of Norman Lewis’s WPA-era oil paintings to come to auction, and Charles White’s Trumpet Player, a 1959-1960 charcoal and gouache drawing. Also from the MFA's collection are works by Charles Alston, Richmond Barthé-painter turned sculptor known for his figures of black workers, dancers and Broadway personalities, the non-representational abstract painter Beauford Delaney and Laura Wheeler Waring most noted for her still lifes and portraits of prominent African-Americans during the Harlem Renaissance, will all be auctioned.

Norman Lewis, Meeting Place, oil on canvas, 1941. Estimate $150,000 to $200,000

"Last year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) purchased the Axelrod Collection of 100 works, accessioning 67 into the Museum’s collection (six of these works are currently on view in the Art of the Americas Wing). The remaining 33 works were not accessioned — these objects were either duplicative with the Museum’s collection or the curatorial team felt it unlikely that they would be displayed to their full advantage. With large collections, it is not uncommon for museums to retain select works for their collection while identifying others for sale to benefit the museum’s collection. The works being sold at Swann Auction Galleries fall into this category," stated the Museum of Fine Arts via email.

With more than 440 works by African American artists throughout the collection, the Museum of Fine Arts has elevated its holdings in recent years through acquisitions made possible through its Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection and gifts to the MFA. It has also had a long relationship with the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Roxbury which it helped developed into the institution that it is today. The NCAAA remains the largest independent black cultural arts institution in New England and has co-organized with the MFA nine exhibitions including "Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston" (1970) and the most recent "View from the Upper Room: The Art of John Biggers" (1997).

On November 1st and 2nd 2011 the MFA sold at auction eight works including two by Alfred Sisley, a Pissarro and a Paul Gauguin in order to acquire Man at His Bath, an 1884 painting by Gustave Caillebotte. In the same email, the MFA stated that funds from the Swann Auction Galleries sale will defray costs of the Axelrod Collection purchase.

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About Author

Anulfo AKA The Evolving Critic is a preservationist and blogger with a strong interest in architectural history, urbanism, and the parallels between fashion and architecture. He holds degrees in Tourism Planning and Development from the University of New Hampshire and in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University. Anulfo has written for the Boston Society of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He oversaw BR&S's blog, Our Daily Red, from 2012-14.

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