Norman Lewis' Block Island was the star lot of Swann Auction Galleries' African American art sale yesterday.
The 1975 piece is the first canvas work from Lewis' Seachange series to appear at auction, explaining why it trumped its $180,000 estimate with a $245,000 showing.
Art critic Ann Edison Gibson comments: "The Seachanges deserve to be considered along with Mark Rothko's late dark paintings, Franz Kline's late black-and-color paintings, and Ad Reinhardt's deeply black square paintings as landmarks of late Abstract Expressionism."
Lewis (1909-1979) was the only black artist in the first wave of abstract expressionists.
His work has become increasingly valuable in recent years, with an untitled painting from 1958 selling for a record $965,000 last year.
Lewis' Birds in Flight (1953) also sold, achieving $149,000. The canvas was only recently discovered. Lewis gave it as a gift to close friend Marvin Lagunoff - Simon & Garfunkel's manager.
Elsewhere in the sale, Al Loving's 1969 triptych Three Solid Questions achieved $100,000 - one of the finest results for his work.
The piece was one of six canvases Loving showed at his first solo exhibition, at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969.
A set of 18 photographs by Sam Vanderzee (1886-1983), depicting key figures of the Harlem Renaissance, doubled its estimate to make $87,500.
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