Barkley L. Hendricks’s 1971 portrait of artist Stanley Whitney is poised to break a record when it comes up for auction in May.
The life-size Stanley pictures its titular subject standing in street clothes against a gold background, smoking a cigarette. It will be offered during a single-owner sale at Christie’s, where it has a low estimate of $5 million. If it reaches that figure, the sale will be a record price for a work by Hendricks, who died in 2017 at the age of 72.
The two Philadelphia-born artists met while studying at Yale University in the 1970s. Hendricks eventually became known for his paintings of fashion-forward subjects—predominantly depicting people of color in his inner circle. He’s credited with influencing the current generation of Black figurative painters.
The last time a major Hendricks work came to auction was in December 2020. The 1972 canvas Mr. Johnson (Sammy from Miami) depicting one of the artist’s signature nonchalantly posed models sold for $4 million during a Sotheby’s contemporary sale in New York, setting a new artist auction record. The result surpassed the previous 2019 high of $3.7 million paid for Hendricks’s Yocks (1975) at Sotheby’s.
Recognition surged for Hendricks following the Nasher Museum of Art’s lauded retrospective “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool,” in 2008 at Duke University. Whitney, who is 77, has lately seen his own milestones. His abstract works garnered attention during a collateral exhibition staged at the last edition of the Venice Biennale in 2022.
The painting will be offered among a group of works from the collection of Boston real estate developer Gerald Fineberg, who died in December 2022, including paintings by art historical heavyweights like Willem de Kooning and Gerhard Richter, valued at $8 million and $15 million, respectively.
Fineberg, while amassing his collection of contemporary art, served on the boards of Massachusetts art institutions including the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston. The latter has a wall named for Fineberg and his wife, Sandra.
The estate collection is expected to generate a total of $270 million, according to a Christie’s statement.