‘Sugar Shack’ by Ernie Barnes sells for $15.3 million at auction
A painting that served as the cover for one of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s albums has sold at auction for almost $15.3 million.
According to Christie’s, the final sale price for “The Sugar Shack” was 27 times higher than the most expensive Barnes work to sell before it. It also blew past its estimated sale price of $150,000 to $200,000.
Barnes, who died in 2009, was born in North Carolina in 1938 and often drew upon his own experiences growing up in the American South during the Jim Crow era in his depictions of social moments and images of quotidian Black life.
“The Sugar Shack” has become a widely recognized image — thanks in part to its appearance on Gaye’s 1976 “I Want You” album and to its use across four seasons of the sitcom “Good Times,” which centered around the lives of a poor families in the Chicago housing projects.
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Barnes was a professional American football player before becoming a painter and many of his artworks depicted sporting scenes, such as basketball and football games. Barnes told the Oakland Tribune in 2002: “I paint when ideas come and I see a vision of what I want from our common humanity.”
Barne’s work appeared on other album covers over the years including a 1984 cover for the The Crusaders and BB King’s 2000 album “Making Love is good for you.”