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Detroit Auction House Makes History with Record-Breaking Sales of Iconic African American Artists


Detroit, MI, January 24th, 2024 – Detroit’s DuMouchelles auction house made history this past November with the record-shattering sales of iconic works by legendary artists closely linked to the city’s thriving cultural fabric. The works of Richard Mayhew, Charles McGee, and Hughie Lee-Smith commanded top dollar, underscoring Detroit’s prominence as a hub of artistic innovation and collectors’ growing appetite for African American art.

Richard Mayhew’s Landscape Mastery Shines

Two vibrant landscapes by 99 year-old Richard Mayhew sold for an astonishing $285,200 and $272,800 respectively, sailing past his prior auction benchmark of $233,000 set in 2020. Lot 1008, “Southern Border,” featured in a past exhibition at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum, became the top sale.

Lot 1008 | Richard Mayhew (American, B. 1924) Oil on Canvas, 1999, “Southern Border”, H 36″ W 48″ Sold for $285,200
Lot 1009 | Richard Mayhew (American, B. 1924) Oil on Canvas, Ca. 1999, H 18″ W 24″
Sold for $272,800

The vibrancy and emotional resonance of Mayhew’s work not only highlight his mastery over color but also reflect a profound connection to landscapes, offering viewers a transcendent visual experience. “I was so happy to see the appreciation for Mayhew’s art back in the city that helped launch his career,” commented gallerist Sherry Washington of Sherry Arts LLC, Detroit, who exhibited the same works in Detroit in decades prior, and was in attendance at the record-breaking auction. “The highest value painting at our 1990 exhibition was ‘Mood Indigo’, a 62” x 90” oil on canvas, purchased for $50,000.”

Charles McGee’s Detroit Legacy

Charles McGee, a pillar of the Detroit art scene since his arrival in 1934, continues to inspire after his passing in 2021. Renowned for his dynamic and multifaceted approach to art, Charles McGee’s work spans a vast range of mediums, from large-scale public murals to intricate drawings, each piece imbued with a deep exploration of pattern, rhythm, and form. McGee’s art, deeply rooted in his experiences in Detroit, reflects a unique blend of abstract expressionism and a narrative style that delves into themes of nature, humanity, and the interconnectedness of all living things.

Lot 1010 | Charles McGee (American, 1924-2021) Charcoal Crayon, Graphite And Kneaded Eraser on Illustration Board, 1970, “April”, H 40″ W 60″ Sold for $37,200

Lot 1010, “April,” created in 1970 using charcoal crayon, graphite, and kneaded eraser on illustration board, sold for a record $37,200, topping his prior $25,000 auction benchmark in New York. “April” is a testament to McGee’s impactful, textural style and his commitment to exploring the essence of the human experience.

Hughie Lee-Smith’s Intriguing Still Life

Hughie Lee-Smith, who lived in Detroit from 1940 to 1958, contributed to the city’s artistic landscape with his enigmatic compositions. His artistry is characterized by its hauntingly introspective and often surreal qualities, combining elements of realism with dream-like backgrounds. His time in Detroit significantly influenced his thematic focus on urban landscapes and the human condition, often portraying figures in contemplative or isolated settings. Lee-Smith’s work is celebrated for its meticulous attention to detail, masterful use of light and shadow, and the profound sense of emotion it evokes.

Lot 1011 | Hughie Lee-Smith (American, 1915-1999) Oil on Canvas “Still Life with Wine Bottle And Fruit”, H 26″ W 18″ Sold for $24,800

His oil on canvas “Still Life with Wine Bottle And Fruit” fetched $24,800 at the auction. The painting, a classic arrangement of wine bottle, pears, and oranges on a silver tray, exudes a quiet elegance and showcases Lee-Smith’s refined technique and nuanced approach to light and shadow.

DuMouchelles’ Commitment to Artistic Heritage

DuMouchelles’ Chairwoman Joan Walker reflects on the auction’s success, stating, “These sales not only represent a triumph for DuMouchelles but also for the city of Detroit. The artistry of Mayhew, McGee, and Lee-Smith is woven into the fabric of our city’s history. Their works stand as a testament to Detroit’s enduring legacy as a cradle of artistic innovation.”

Fine Arts Specialist Renee Fessel, adds, “Richard Mayhew is the definition of a trailblazer, exploring the crossroads of human identity and American landscape through a vivid exploration of color. The record breaking sale of his works here in Detroit could not be more meaningful to a city who has supported and collected African American artists when few others would. For Mayhew’s work to be followed up by the likes of Charles McGee and Hughie Lee-Smith was a trifecta of talent with a well-deserved spotlight.”

General Manager and Auctioneer Robert DuMouchelle during the November 2023 Auctions Accepting the Winning Bid for Lot 1008

Upcoming Works from Richard Mayhew

Highlighting Richard Mayhew’s initial training in illustration, DuMouchelles will be featuring two ethereal, abstract landscape drawings from the Santa Cruz Series, 1992.  These works will be available in our upcoming Thursday and Friday, February 15th & 16th auctions at 11AM EST.

Richard Mayhew (American, B. 1924) Graphite on Paper, 1992, “Santa Cruz Series #3″, H 9″ W 11.5”
Richard Mayhew (American, B. 1924) Graphite on Paper, 1992, “Santa Cruz Series #5″, H 8.75″ W 12”

About DuMouchelles

Established in 1927, DuMouchelles stands at the forefront of the global art market, championing the works of both historic and contemporary artists. With a reputation for excellence and a commitment to the highest standards of quality, DuMouchelles continues to curate auctions that attract a worldwide audience of art connoisseurs and collectors.

For information on consigning special pieces for auction or bidding on upcoming offerings, please visit or call 313-963-6255. 

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