Recognize the picture above? Sure you do – it’s the iconic image on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ album. The artwork was created by US painter Ernie Barnes and its depiction of jubilant Black dancers in a club was a perfect reflection on the music on the album. Gaye had been introduced to Barnes (a former NFL star) by colleague Barbara Hunter, which led to him buying eight Barnes originals, including ‘The Sugar Shack’ – the actual title of that wonderful image.
After Gaye’s death, the painting changed hands several times. One of the owners was Eddie Murphy, but last Thursday, the original painting was sold at auction for a record-breaking $15.2 million which was 76 times its estimate of $150,000 to $200,000, according to international auction house Christie’s. The buyer was energy trader and poker player Bill Perkins who said, “I’m walking away with the treasure while everybody is fighting over a Warhol or a Monet!”