Window Wishing by Ernie Barnes sold for $138,600 at Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session on Nov. 16, 2022 in New York City. Barnes was the true definition of a multi-hyphenate artist—in addition to being a renowned painter, he was also a professional football player, actor and author.
A chance encounter with a high school teacher changed Barnes’ outlook on life. Once a self-described chubby, unathletic kid who was bullied by classmates, Barnes set out on a transformation and, by senior year, became the captain of his football team and the state champion in the shot put.
During his career as a professional football player, Barnes would often sketch the players and their body movements on the field during his breaks. After a series of injuries forced Barnes to retire from football, he decided to focus on his art full time. His artwork subjects span everything from athletes to his life experiences as an African American. His work caught the attention of singer Marvin Gaye, who asked Barnes for permission to use one of his works as his album cover art.
As the saying goes, imitation is the best form of flattery; the widespread recognition afforded to Barnes and his unique style has spurred many copycats. As a result, there are pending copyright infringement lawsuits filed by The Ernie Barnes Family Trust, with some others already having been settled.
Some of our other favorites, from Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session on Nov. 16, 2022 in New York City, appear throughout the issue.