A key figure in London’s Caribbean Artists Movement, the artist produced four works which are now in the Tate Collection but until recently has never had much track-record 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.
Born in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, Williams began drawing as a child, taking lessons from a restorer of religious paintings in Guyanese churches. He had 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.
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 and sold at £4800. It drew a phone bidder from San Francisco who was eventually seen off by a UK buyer.
This new record was then surpassed twice on August 20 as two earlier oils emerged for sale at Burstow & Hewett (20% buyer’s premium) in Battle on August 20.
Rainsong and a second unframed canvas titled on the verso Cataleya were both signed and dated 1962, a time when Williams enjoyed greatest commercial recognition.
Both works in Sussex were typical of Williams’ work of this period that combines elements of Abstract Expressionism with 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 which was knocked down at £7500. Both pictures sold to a buyer via thesaleroom.com.