Bill Perkins buys iconic ‘The Sugar Shack’ painting for $15.3 million

04:47
June 04

Bill Perkins recently made a statement in the art world when he made a record-breaking acquisition of The sugar shacka 1976 artwork by a former football player and artist Ernie Barnes.

The auctioneer added that Perkins had spent $15.3 million for the framed work, more than 27 times the initial record created by African American artist.

“Good times!!!!” Perkins took to Twitter after acquiring the eight-figure photo.

The major purchase that Perkins made at the Christie’s auction in New York on May 12which was a rare moment of gripping storyline in the usually mundane and dull art auction community, garnered interest from several major media outlets, such as the New York Times, USA Today, and Vanity Fair.


Several interested buyers

A familiar poker figure known worldwide for his appearances on High stakes pokerPerkins was one of the 22 bidders auction and began by offering $500,000 for painting. The painting depicts a cohort of African American dancers performing at the Durham Armory in 1952, a famous dance hall when the United States was still separating North Carolina.

A Los Angeles-based art consultant named Dan Jensen then raised the price while talking on the phone with his client. Vanity Fair assumed the client was Mellody Hobson, wife of George Lucas. After that, Perkins increased the offer to $2 millionrelying on his vast skills as a poker player to successfully raise the stakes.

The back-and-forth bidding battle persisted, and it was at this point that Perkins and Jensen found themselves in a turbulent situation.

According to Vanity Fair, Jensen’s response to Perkins’ question was, “I’m not going to quit.”

“Well, then, I’ll make you pay!” Perkins fired back.

After all was said and done, Perkins made a final offer of $15.3 million to get the artwork for more than 80 times what the auction company intended to sell.


Is it worth the price?

Perkins defends his extravagant purchase of the artwork and even believes he got a bargain, despite the fact that the $15.3 million price might seem exorbitant.
“It’s a cultural treasure,” Perkins recently said on the Artelligence Podcast.

“And I knew it was a cultural treasure, but since I acquired the work, the number of individuals who have come forward to me…blacks, whites, several Americans who say, ‘J ‘love this photo, it reminds me of this’, it’s cemented in my opinion that it’s a cultural treasure.”


Cultural artifact for Perkins

Throughout his appearance on the podcast, Perkins, who describes himself as an art “complete noob,” said he “became familiar with Barnes’ work ‘through friends who were kind of enlightening me about African American artists, and (I) was kind of beginning to understand who was culturally significant.’

“I bought these works from Barnes, and it felt like I was stealing, like I was plundering the art world picking up crucial pieces of American art at what I would consider a relative bargain. ”

Perkins maintained this line of thought:

“The art world is biased against American art. The world is biased against African-American art and African-American narratives, even though they are essential parts of the American experience. And therefore, I have been able to take advantage of this because it allows me to purchase works essentially for free in relation to both their historical and cultural value.”

Nevertheless, whether or not Perkins got a good deal on the famous work of art, it is inevitable that the wealthy merchant and poker fan, who $4.4 million in poker tournament profits will still be able to afford his next meal.

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Rachel J. Bradford