Kerry James Marshall: The First Surviving African American Artist to Sell Artwork for $21.1m


As the first living African American artist to sell a piece of art at auction for $21.1 million in 2018, Kerry James Marshall made art history. In Kerry’s piece “Past Times,” a black family is depicted in an affluent environment playing cricket and golf as well as water skiing on a lake. a style of life that is radically different from how people of African heritage have historically been portrayed in European art.

The highest record price was paid for this painting, which reflects how important it is to preserving the black community’s cultural history. Hip-hop musician and CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment Sean Combs purchased the piece of art. Kerry never intended to become rich off of his paintings, despite the fact that this auction established a record.

His art is a result of the civil rights movement’s influence on him, which gave him a societal responsibility to promote black empowerment. From the time his art instructor, Mary Hill, displayed a scrapbook filled with cards, photographs, and other visuals to the class, he was driven to pursue a career in the arts. However, he wasn’t exposed to art until the fifth grade.

According to the Seattle Art Museum, he was motivated by the work of Black social realist painter Charles White, who provided him his first studio experience. This may be why Michelle Obama, the former first lady, is such a fan. His paintings primarily glorify the African American working class, whether in their neighborhood, family life, or blacks dwelling in respectable lodgings. According to the Guardian, Kerry’s paintings explore complex issues related to black identity and the societal injustice that these people face on a daily basis.

Kerry, who was born on October 17, 1955, in Birmingham, was reared in South Central Los Angeles’ Watts district and went to Otis College of Art and Design. He naturally acquired a sympathetic attitude toward the black cause while growing up in his neighborhood, which affected his worldview and campaigning. He finds inspiration for his modern art in his past and experiences with black culture.

He felt that the way black identity was portrayed in Western paintings was unfair. Some of his admirers think this may have had an impact on the vibrant artistic emotions he used while portraying black subjects. According to The New Yorker, he portrays the darkness and environment they are in.

Success, a native of Birmingham, has always preferred to remain anonymous while creating his drawings, but he has discovered a way to connect with them. In the thirty years of his career, his paintings have been shown in numerous galleries and institutions. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1997, which he used to project his paintings.

A new generation of artists who are exhibiting a love for figurative art have expressed interest in his style. Despite the fact that his early works were not financially successful, he maintained the overarching objective of projecting black identities into black bodies. Cheryl Lynn Bruce, an actress from Stranger Than Fiction, is married to Kerry.

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