Ernie Barnes’ iconic painting The Sugar Shack which was depicted in the opening credits of the sitcom Good Times and on Marvin Gaye’s I Want You album, recently sold for $15.2 million, the USA Today reports.
On May 12, Christie’s auction house sold the painting for 76 times the estimated price, setting a new record for an artwork by Barnes.
Initially, the painting was valued in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range according to Emily Kaplan, co-head of the 20th century evening sale at Christie’s New York. The auction house believed it could “smash through the estimates,” but their projections were only for $2 million or $3 million.
Bill Perkins, a hedge fund manager, and poker player bought the piece after more than 11 minutes of bidding, the company stated.
Perkins posted on his Instagram about the purchase calling it “a childhood dream come true.”
The Sugar Shack painting features Black men and women dancing, and singing at a club with their eyes closed, a Barnes signature. The painting is arguably one of Barnes’ most renowned pieces of art from the era.
Kaplan noted that the company knew it was an “extremely special painting” because of its use on Gaye’s album and the sitcom. She added that Barnes’ work is in high demand by art collectors.
“It was really part of the cultural consciousness in a way that no other Ernie Barnes painting was,” she said. “We certainly didn’t know until that moment that it was going to sell at the level that it did. That is extremely rare and very, very special.”
Christie’s sold another Ernie Barnes piece called Storm Dance at Christie’s for $2.34 million the day after Perkins purchased the Sugar Shack. Another Barnes piece, Ballroom Soul was sold at Christie’s from the collection of Danny and Donna Arnold for $550,000 last November. The purchase set a record for a Barnes’ painting until Perkins’ winning bid surpassed it.
An accomplished artist and former professional football player, Barnes’ artwork was characterized by “elongated figures, usually in motion.” He was named Official Artist of the 1984 Summer Olympics and received the 1984 and 2004 Sport Artist of the Year Award presented annually by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. Additionally, he created many other paintings that were featured on Good Times; he also appeared in several episodes of the series.
In 1990 Barnes was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by North Carolina Central University, his alma mater and in 1999 he received “The University Award,” the highest honor by The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.