Recognized as a staple artwork, particularly in the Black community, artist Ernie Barnes’ 1976 painting The Sugar Shack sold at a New York City auction on May 12 for just under $15.3 million.
The painting’s historic sale went to Houston-based entrepreneur and energy trader Bill Perkins.
Its $15.275 million price tag was 27 times higher than Barnes’ previously set auction record and remarkably much higher than The Sugar Shack‘s estimated sale price of $150,000 to $200,000 going into last week’s Christie’s auction.
“I stole it — I would have paid a lot more,” Perkins told The New York Times after his purchase. “For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the Mona Lisa.”
The businessman interestingly also shared with the outlet that he flew into NYC to bid on the painting in person because he wanted to lessen his chance of being outbid.
“What if Oprah shows up? What if P. Diddy shows up?” Perkins recalled thinking.
The Houstonian warded off 22 other bidders in an intense 10-minute long battle for The Sugar Shack, and on Instagram he later penned: “A childhood dream come true happened tonight.”
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The Sugar Shack is most recognizable for its feature throughout several seasons of the 70s sitcom Good Times, and its display on Marvin Gaye’s fourteenth studio album, 1976’s I Want You.
Barnes — a former NFL football player — said in a 2002 interview that The Sugar Shack was inspired during his childhood in North Carolina and “not being able to go to a dance I wanted to go to when I was 11.”
The iconic artwork depicts a lively scene filled with Black dancers and musicians — all enveloped in their bodies, rhythm and the space.
The piece is painted in a style classified as Black Romantic.
Barnes passed away due to leukemia in 2009 at the age of 70, according to Deadline.
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