May 13, 2022

"I stole it — I would have paid a lot more. For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the 'Mona Lisa.'"

Said Bill Perkins, quoted in "Ernie Barnes’s ‘Sugar Shack’ Painting Brings Big Price at Auction/An iconic image sells for $15.3 million at Christie’s to Bill Perkins, an energy trader, who says he’s been waiting his whole life to buy that work of art" (NYT). 

Ernie Barnes’s most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” an exultant dancing scene that was featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You” and during the closing credits of the TV sitcom “Good Times,” sold for a whopping $15.3 million at Christie’s 20th Century auction on Thursday evening to the energy trader Bill Perkins. It was 76 times its high estimate of $200,000.... 

“What if Oprah shows up? What if P. Diddy shows up?” he recalled thinking. “I’m not going to be able to buy this piece.... I’ve been waiting like 40 years for this moment,” he said. “I’m not going to let it pass.”

 

ADDED: "Sugar Shack" is the dream of a great night out — everyone is dancing and transported by the music. When you go out at night, you can only hope to find a place like that, or, no, you probably cannot even hope!

It made think of the Edward Hopper painting, "Nighthawks," which is also like a dream, but of an iconically bad night out — nowhere to go, no one to relate to at all: 

38 comments:

wendybar said...

I'd rather have the money.

gilbar said...

painting of BBL results?

Wilbur said...

If he's happy, then it's money well-spent. Plus I'm sure he sees it as an investment, so he can sell it to the next sucker coming along.

Lem said...

Aren’t caricatures of blacks inherently racist?

David Begley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

I like the painting, but I had the same instinctive reaction that Lern did. Wow. Where's the watermelon?

And if a white man painted that...

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

The thing that sticks out to me is the difference between the highest estimate of value and the final price. Somebody is bad at their job. Or maybe it's just Bidenflation.

Charles said...

I always loved this painting. I first saw it from "Good Times"

WOW that's a load of cash!

Heartless Aztec said...

Looks like the place our 15 year old selves used buy beer at a 500% markup in 1968. It was a happening place out on the edge of the Intra Coastal waterway down a oyster shell road in a swampish, alligator and spooky moonlight setting in north east Florida just shy of the Georgia border. Marvin on the juke box of course.

Amadeus 48 said...

Did Barnes also do one called "Trap House"? If he did, don't tell Yale Law. They might blame it on the Federalist Society.

If Barnes were still alive, he could go to work on the crowd that gathered at North Avenue Beach in Chicago on Wednesday night. According to CWBChicago:

Wednesday’s “North Ave Beach Takeover” was promoted with social media posts that promised a beer pong table “drinking contest, twerk contest, boxing gloves, cameraman in attendance.”

“Bring out da booty shorts cos we ousside,” encouraged one flyer. “Yall better get a car wash cos da bad bitches comin out”

This happened in Chicago's best city neighborhood.

Here's link:

https://cwbchicago.com/2022/05/chicago-north-avenue-beach-old-town-crowd-police.html

Everything is going great. Summer of Joy, as Mayor Lightweight likes to call it. The only good news is that it happened just across the street from Gov. JB "Toilets"* Pritzker's in-town palazzo. His out-of-town establishments are a horse farm in Wisconsin and an island in the Bahamas, where he can visit his money off-shore.

The decline of this great city is right on schedule. The Visigoths should arrive shortly.

*Pritzker had bought the house next door to his to "protect his privacy." He then removed the kitchen and the toilets and said the house was uninhabitable to get a real estate tax reduction. Then he blamed his wife for the move, saying she was in charge of household matters.

Saint Croix said...

Aren’t caricatures of blacks inherently racist?

I remember a Good Times episode that covered this.

Breezy said...

It’s a wonderful painting! Good for him!

farmgirl said...

Good Times.
The best of them.

Wince said...

Not just shown during “Good Times” credits, I thought JJ painted it?

Kai Akker said...

Poor guy! He got what he wanted.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Is this “Die with Zero” Bill Perkins?

Leland said...

"Nighthawks" looks great to me. For us, the occasion is usually early morning breakfast, at the diner, with a server who will pay attention to us because only one or two other regular patrons. It is quiet, relaxing, wife and I can chat. Food will come quickly and at the right temperature. When we are ready to leave, the server will be easy to find and make payment.

As for the atmosphere of the Sugar Shack, I've experienced it on a summer night at the Gruene Hall. It was awesome. Perhaps you've been there, Althouse? It is not too far south of Austin.

Andrew said...

Concerning Nighthawks, a favorite of mine, here's my interpretation. There are only two people in the establishment: the single man, and the server. The couple are in the single man's imagination. Either a daydream or a memory: the man, and his love. Perhaps a lost love, or perhaps a hopeful fantasy.

David Begley said...

Left.

Yes. He lives in Houston. Played football at Iowa and went to a Jesuit high school that he gave $1.25m.

Dagwood said...

I'd never heard of Barnes, so I checked out the Wikipedia article about him. A remarkable life. He played professional football, but never excelled. Was fined repeatedly for sketching instead of paying attention during team meetings. One of his lifelong friends was Jack Kemp, who was a teammate for a few years with the Chargers.

Lurker21 said...

It's not hard to believe that there may be people in America who don't know the Mona Lisa and people who remember the album, but do they really know this painting as anything in itself?

I do remember my parents had an album with the '60s hit "Sugar Shack" on it. I thought that was the title of the album too, but can't seem to find it online.

Ernie Barnes was not just a painter. He was also an author, actor, and NFL player.

I wonder what the market's like for Rosie Grier's needlepoint.

Quaestor said...

In my junior year I attended a symposium conducted by Tom Regan (yeah, that Tom Regan) and another guy whose name I can't recall* that bridged two disciplines, aesthetics and the philosophy of art, on the question of authenticity. Among other things we discussed the case of Han van Meegeren (1889-1947) a painter and portraitist who was highly respected as an artist in his own right but became notorious for a series of exquisite forgeries he falsely attributed to various Dutch Baroque masters, particularly Jan Vermeer, and one work in particular, Christ with the Adulteress. Hermann Göring, a tasteless dilettante, traded 137 non-forgeries looted from the collections of Jews "deported Ost!" to acquire it. Would he have done if the Reichsminister had known the painting's actual provenance? We concluded he would have derided the work in the most sulfurous terms that rolly-polly buffoon could concoct, being a man obsessed with money-value and authenticity rather than beauty and talent. The discussion also turned to the great works of antiquity, which in Roman times were mostly the anonymous work of obscure artists who were often slaves. Does the artist's biography have anything to do with aesthetic value? We concluded, not much.

I bring up this question of the artist as separate entity from the work because we should consider what the fate of "Sugar Shack" and the rest of the Ernie Barnes body of work would have been if the artist had been born a white Anglo-Saxon from Durham, North Carolina.

*I can see with my mind's eye that philosopher/mathematician's face clearly, but the name escapes me, Bruno something Polish, I think. I also recall one of his songs, among the funniest I've ever heard, No One Ever Died for Dear Old Rutgers.

WK said...

Pretty limited range of body types represented in that painting......

gspencer said...

Ya gotta b kiddin' me!

zipity said...


In the sequel to this painting, after the club closes, someone gets dissed outside the club, and gun-fire erupts. There are innocent bystanders killed.

Ampersand said...

Ann's take on Nighthawks at the Diner is interesting. Her response is so different from mine that it reminds me of the wildly divergent responses that we can project onto inkblots. I look at the Hopper painting and feel the diner patrons' sense of quietude as they take stock of a long day, and begin to think about what tomorrow will bring. It evokes for me the contemplative five minutes or so between the time my head hits the pillow and the moment I surrender to sleep.

Yancey Ward said...

"Good Times" is also where I first saw it, though I did later see it on the Gaye album two decades later in a record shop in Atlanta- recognized it instantly.

Yancey Ward said...

I never viewed "Nighthawks" as a 'bad night out'.

Michael K said...

There are too many people who are silly rich. My daughter worked at an art gallery in Venice CA. It had a lot of "contemporary art." She said women would come in and write a check for pieces costing $875,000. She has an MLS degree and once was able to identify a forgery. The gallery owner got his $250,000 back from Christies and I'm sure another sucker bought the forgery.

Anthony said...

I prefer Nighthawks m'self. Cleaner. Simpler. Kind of a Deco feel to it. Plus, you can look at it for hours and use your imagination as to what's going on, despite its simplicity.

Joe Smith said...

The Hopper painting has been parodied so often it's weird to see the unadulterated version.

It really is a great painting.

'Aren’t caricatures of blacks inherently racist?'

The Biden administration is considering banning menthol cigarettes.

That won't help them at the polls...

Howard said...

The style looks like Thomas Hart Benton. Or perhaps Diego Rivera if you could paint something ecstatic and joyful.

Readering said...

A bunch of Ernie Barnes owners ready to hug and kiss Bill Perkins.

mikee said...

So that painting of people quietly enjoying their lives and having a bite at a corner cafe is called Nighthawks? Nice to know. I've always thought it was a very happy painting. And so is the other one, with the exuberant dancing.

Almond Joy v. Mounds, Left Twix v. Right Twix, Reece's chocolate v. peanut butter. The existence of both paintings is like an ad for candy. Both are good.

Jupiter said...

Are they objectifying Black bodies again?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm saying they represent a *dream* of a good/bad night out. Neither is realistic, both are an emotional landscape. "Sugar Shack" is an unreachably good time. When you go out at night, it's what you wish could happen. "Nighthawks" is like many of my actual dreams. I'm alone and stranded in a strange place. It epitomizes loneliness.

KellyM said...

Love "Nighthawks". An episode of "That 70's Show" uses this. It ends with the main characters (Red & Kitty) sitting at a diner counter, having finished their meal. At first you don't even suspect, but as the camera pans out, you see the four actors in the frame freeze their movements to match identically the body positions in the painting. And you only then do you get the episode's gag when you see the name of the diner at the top. Very well done.

Smilin' Jack said...

“Sugar Shack” looks like a zombie attack . I’d feel a lot more comfortable in Hopper’s place.