Phillips has announced selections from the collection of Virginia-based art patron and philanthropist, the late William Royall, who died in June, will go on offer in the house’s upcoming 20th-century and contemporary art sale December 7 in New York.
Royall served as the head of direct-marketing firm, Royall & Co. Together with his wife, Pamela, he amassed a valuable collection—a large portion of which is focused on modern and contemporary black artists. Their holdings comprise works by emerging and mid-career names like Rashid Johnson, Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Mickalene Thomas, Adam Pendleton, and Theaster Gates, along with artists active from the early 20th century to the postwar era such as Bill Traylor, Jack Whitten, Beauford Delaney, and Thornton Dial.
Active museum donors, the collectors gifted more than 100 works to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where Bill Royall served as trustee. They also gave an acquisition fund in their name devoted to bringing works of contemporary art to the museum’s collection and were key in the museum’s acquisitions of Kehinde Wiley’s 30-foot-high bronze statue, Rumors of War (2019), to Richmond in December 2019 and Sanford Biggers’s Overstood (2017) in 2018.
New York art adviser Waqas Wajahat served as a key player in several of the Royalls’ top purchases.
Now, 33 pieces from the Royall collection will come to the secondary market. Leading the collection is Barkley L. Hendricks′s Salina/Star, a yellow-ground portrait of a woman from 1980, estimated from $800,000 to $1.2 million. The Royalls purchased Salina/Star from Jack Shainman in 2012; it was later showcased in the artist′s watershed retrospective “Birth of the Cool” at the Nasher Museum of Art in 2008. Another full-length Hendricks portrait of a woman from the same year sold in Sotheby’s October “Contemporary Curated” sale in New York for $1.5 million. The sale of the double portrait Yocks (1975) moved Hendricks′s record up to $3.7 million at Sotheby′s New York in May 2019, against an estimate of $900,000 to $1.2 million.
“It′s fascinating to see just how influential artists like Barkley Hendricks have been on this generation of younger artists,” said Robert Manley, Phillips deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, in an interview. Regarding the collection, Manley said, “From an art historical point of view it′s wonderful to see that progression through the century of figurative art from one artist in a generation to the next.”
The evening sale will also include Mickalene Thomas′s large-scale painting of a woman, I’ve Been Good to Me (2013), estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, which has been in the collection since 2013. Thomas′s record recently moved up with the sale of her painting Naomi Looking Forward (2013) for $698,000, over an estimate of $246,000, at Sotheby’s London in May 2019.
Market darling Baltimore-based figurative painter Amy Sherald, who recently joined the roster at Hauser & Wirth, will be represented in the auction. The sale comes on the heels of Sherald’s commissioned portrait of Breonna Taylor for the cover of the Vanity Fair September issue. Sherald’s Bathers (2015), a painting of two women in bathing suits holding hands, carries an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. The Royalls purchased it from Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia. The piece was exhibited on loan from the Royall collection in Sherald’s solo survey at the Crystal Bridges Museum, Arkansas, in September 2018. The present work is poised to break the artist’s auction record.
Only one work by Sherald has ever been sold at auction: Innocent You, Innocent Me (2016) sold for $350,000, more than four times the $80,000 low estimate, at Christie’s New York in May 2019. The Phillips sale will mark the first time works by Sherald and Thomas appear together in an auction evening sale.
Henry Taylor’s Noah Was Here and Obviously Thelma Too from 2014 has an estimate of $150,000–$200,000. Taylor’s market has seen recent traction, with six of his highest records established in 2019; he joined Hauser & Wirth in January 2020. Currently, his record price is $975,000, set with the sale of I’ll Put a Spell on You (2004) at Sotheby’s New York in 2018, beating the high estimate of $200,000. For new works, private sale prices published via art fairs have been around $100,000 and $300,000.
Also included in the sale are works by Kehinde Wiley and Titus Kaphar; the latter set a new record during the Phillips London contemporary art evening sale this October when his Alternate Endings (2016) sold for £466,200 ($604,350). Modernist Beauford Delaney will also be represented in the collection sale. “[Delaney] is one of the breakthrough African-American painters to get any real recognition in America in the 1940s–50s,” said Manley.
Bolstered by the notoriety of a museum trustee’s ownership, the sale will bring to the market a rare concentration of works by key postwar and contemporary Black artists, at a time when demand is burgeoning. “For the marketplace, it’s fortuitous timing,” said Manley of the sale.
“The estimates are intentionally low, to generate more interest,” Manley said of the leading lots. “These are all works that we are extremely confident are going to sell for exponentially higher than their low estimates.”