Artwork that once decorated the Michigan Avenue offices of Johnson Publishing Co., which filed for bankruptcy in April, fetched nearly $3 million at auction last week — more than doubling expectations.
The 87 pieces of African American art were sold in a live auction Jan. 30 in New York City.
Topping the list was artist Henry Ossawa Tanner’s oil on canvas titled “Moonrise by Kasbah (Morocco),” which sold for $365,000.
A piece by Carrie Mae Weems that chronicles the black migration to Chicago from Southern states through a series of seven real-life images sold for $305,000.
Other noteworthy sales: Dindga McCannon’s oil on canvas titled “The Last Farewell” sold for $161,000, Kenneth Victor Young’s oil on canvas titled “Upper Egypt” sold for $87,500 and Walter H. Williams’s oil on canvas titled “White Butterfly” sold for $125,000.
The auction represented the last major piece in the piecemeal selloff of Johnson Publishing assets.
A collection of dresses and other fashion items were auctioned Dec. 6. They had been part of a traveling fashion show by the company, which published Ebony and Jet magazines and Fashion Fair cosmetics.
In July, the company’s historic photo archive fetched $30 million from a consortium of philanthropic groups that pledged to donate the trove to museums and research centers.
And in November, a group of investors that included former Johnson Publishing executive Desiree Rogers bought the cosmetics line, Fashion Fair, for $1.85 million.
In 2016, Ebony and Jet were sold to Clear View Group, an equity firm in Texas. Johnson Publishing’s Michigan Avenue headquarters, the only Chicago high-rise ever designed and owned by an African American, were sold in 2017 and have since been converted into apartments.
Two of the major bankruptcy claimants are Rogers, who also served as White House social secretary under then-President Barack Obama, and former Johnson Publishing heiress Linda Johnson Rice.
Pending court approval, the net proceeds of the art sale will go to Rogers, said Neville Reid, a bankruptcy attorney who’s working with the court-appointed trustee who’s responsible for investigating assets, selling them, and distributing the proceeds to creditors.