/  05.16.2022

A famous Black painting that was featured as one of Marvin Gaye’s album covers just sold for millions at an auction.

The painting, titled “The Sugar Shack,” was created by Ernie Barnes as a depiction of fun during a scene at a dance hall. It now belongs to a hedge fund manager and entrepreneur, Bill Perkins after a bidding round against 22 eager bidders ended after roughly 10 minutes.

Per Christie’s auction house, the painting sold for a price that was 27 times higher than Barnes’ previous most expensive work.

Born in North Carolina in 1938, Barnes used his artwork as an expression of life in the American South during the Jim Crow era. His work reflected everything from everyday life for Black people including social moments reflected in the famous painting.

According to a previous interview with the Oakland Tribune, Barnes recalled creating “The Sugar Shack” after he was not able “to go to a dance” that he wanted to attend at the age of 11. He was also referred to as the “Picasso of the Black art world.”

The painting features a group of Black dancers having the time of their lives during a dance at the Durham Armory. It was a famous dance hall located in a segregated North Carolina back in 1952.

To date, the portrait has become a cultural staple and might be recognized from legendary soul singer, Marvin Gaye’s 1976 I Want You album. It was also used across four seasons of the iconic sitcom, “Good Times.”

Originally the piece was estimated to sell for between $150,000 and $200,000.

Outside of painting, Barnes had a love and talent for sports and even played as a professional American football player well before taking on an official title as an artist.

“I paint when ideas come and I see a vision of what I want from our common humanity,” said Barnes in the aforementioned interview.


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