Auction record for Guyanese artist Aubrey Williams set on thesaleroom.com08 September 2020 A key figure in London’s Caribbean Artists Movement in the 1960s and 70s, the modern Guyanese artist Aubrey Williams (1926-1990) has never had much of a track-record at auction. But is this changing?
Born in Georgetown, Guyana's capital, Williams began drawing as a child, taking lessons from a restorer of religious paintings in Guyanese churches. He later moved to Britain in 1952 where he was influenced by abstract expressionist painting although he remained attracted to South American iconography and symbolism. He held solo exhibitions at the New Vision Gallery in 1959 and 1960 while, in 1963, 40 of his paintings were exhibited in the Commonwealth Biennale of Abstract Art at the Commonwealth Institute.
With studios in London and Jamaica, he exhibited quite widely and helped found the Caribbean Artists Movement which operated in London between 1966 and 1972.
Although four of his works are now in the Tate Gallery’s collection, the artist’s works have rarely been available on the secondary market. The previous highest price for the artist at auction was the £3800 for The Presence of Kunpipa sold at Tennants in February 2020. However, his auction record was broken three times at this summer.
Most recently, the record was surpassed twice on August 20 when two oils emerged for sale at Burstow & Hewett in Battle on August 20. Rainsong and a second unframed canvas titled verso Cataleya were both signed and dated 1962, a time when Williams was first beginning to receive widespread recognition.
Both works in Sussex were typical of Williams’ work of this period, combining elements of Abstract Expressionism plus the forms, images and symbols of the pre-Columbian culture he encountered while working among the Warao people of north-west Guyana. Many similar oils formed part of the Aubrey Williams exhibition held at London’s October Gallery in 2018.
Estimated at £500-800 each, Cataleya was offered first and took £7000, followed by Rainsong that was knocked down at £7500. Both pictures sold to a buyer via thesaleroom.com.
Earlier this summer, appearing at Grand Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Folkestone on July 6 was Guyana Carib Festival, a relatively large 3ft 1in x 3ft 4in (94cm x 1.01m) oil on canvas which was signed and dated 74 (although the back of the painting had the date as 78).
Consigned by a private client who acquired it over 30 years ago, it was estimated at £3000-5000 but sold at £4600.