Culture

‘Sugar Shack’ Painting Used For Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ Sold for $15.3M

Ernie Barnes painting “The Sugar Shack,” which was used on the cover of 1976 Marvin Gaye album I Want You, has sold for $15.3 million.

1976 Marvin Gaye album is having a bit of resurgence. Earlier this month, the album’s lead single “I Want You” was sampled for surprise Kendrick Lamar single “The Heart Part 5.” Last Thursday during an auction at New York auction house Christie’s, Ernie Barnes painting “The Sugar Shack” – also used for the I Want You album artwork – has sold for a whopping $15.3 million dollars.

The iconic painting, which was also seen on 1970s sitcom Good Times, has been sold to hedge fund manager and entrepreneur Bill Perkins after a 10-minute bidding round against twenty-two other bidders, per The New York Times. The painting was originally estimated to sell for between $150,000 and $200,000.

“I stole it – I would have paid a lot more,” Perkins told The New York Times after the auction. “For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the Mona Lisa.”

Not wanting to risk being outbid, Perkins flew to New York for the Christie’s auction.

“What if Oprah shows up? What if P. Diddy shows up?” he recalled. “I’m not going to be able to buy this piece.”

“The Sugar Shack” depicts a euphoric dance scene in a Black club where partygoers have outstretched figures and their eyes are closed.

“The painting transmits rhythm, so the experience is re-created in the person viewing it,” Barnes, who is now-deceased, told the Soul Museum in 2009. “To show that African Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension.”

“You never saw paintings of Black people by Black artists,” Perkins said. “This introduced not just me but all of America to Barnes’ work. It’s the only artwork that has ever done that. And these were firsts. So this is never going to happen again. Ever. The cultural importance of this piece is just crazy.”

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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