Sean Combs Revealed as the Buyer of Kerry James Marshall’s Record Breaking Painting

The $21M painting was the highest price ever paid for a work by a living African American artist at auction

The buyer of Kerry James Marshall’s painting Past Times (1997), which sold for USD$21.1 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Wednesday night, has been revealed as music mogul Sean Combs.

The monumental canvas smashed the record for the highest price ever paid for one of the artist’s works and is the largest sum ever paid for a work by a living African American artist at auction.

Announcing entrepreneur, fashionista and Grammy Award-winning record producer Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, as the buyer to The New York Times Marshall’s gallerist Jack Shainman said: ‘I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy – that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot.’

pasttimes_900.jpg

Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2.9 x 4 m. Courtesy: © Kerry James Marshall; photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2.9 x 4 m. Courtesy: © Kerry James Marshall; photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

The dealer said Combs, who is the subject of the recent critically acclaimed documentary, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story (2017), was introduced to the painter’s work by friend and sometime musical collaborator, Swizz Beatz, who with his wife, Alicia Keys, also collects art.

The painting was first shown at the 1997 Whitney Biennial and featured in the artist’s recent mid-career survey, ‘Kerry James Marshall: Mastry’, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Reviewing the show for frieze last year, author John Keene wrote:

‘Marshall is clearly steeped in Western and global pictorial traditions as well as in black aesthetics and culture, from the most refined to the popular and vernacular; his life and career have paralleled the numerous, momentous shifts in contemporary American and black history of the last half century. He successfully captures and reflects these trajectories, while also keeping a celebration of the black figure, and blackness itself, at the centre of his art.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955, Marshall grew up in Watts and South Central Los Angeles, graduating from Otis Art Institute, with a stop at the Studio Museum in Harlem’s prestigious residency programme along the way. He now lives, teaches and makes art in Chicago. His paintings, often described as ‘narrative’, index both his own personal history and the broader story of Black America and the diaspora through a variety of formal and representational approaches, including historical tableaux, landscape, genre painting and portraiture, as informed by everything from murals to comic strips.’

Read the review in full here

Marshall was made aware of the buyer’s identity while he was in London giving a talk at the Tate Modern this week. The museum had recently acquired one of his new paintings, Untitled (London Bridge) (2017) which has been four years in the making.

‘The world is recognizing Kerry James Marshall for the master that he is,’ Shainman said, adding ‘what Kerry is happiest doing is working in the studio.’

Most Read

60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...

The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
A tender new film about the fashion icon and troubled genius whose creative vision ‘started the 21st century’
A survey of 1,016 visual artists across the world finds that the badges of professional success don’t necessarily...
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018