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A painting by the late US artist Ernie Barnes depicting an exuberant gospel church service goes on the block at Bonhams in New York (9 September) in a single-lot live auction (est $500,000-$700,000). Solid Rock Congregation (1993) is “an energetic, multi-figure composition with strong emotional resonance”, says Bonhams. Indeed, the work has a fascinating back story as the US gospel singer Margaret Bell, who commissioned the painting, is depicted in the work singing into the microphone. Barnes was a professional American football player, and the pair met via the National Football League. After releasing a record with Warner Alliance Records in 1991, Bell recalls sitting in Barnes studio and him saying: “After hearing your voice Margaret, I can envision a wonderful piece, full of colour, movement and music! If you commission me, I will create it for you!” The result is the joyous scene depicted. The work, previously shown at Bonhams in London, heads to Bonhams Los Angeles on 27 July before reaching its final stop at Bonhams New York (from 1 September).

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