Sean Combs, the producer, rapper, and impresario, purchased the painting “Past Times” by Kerry James Marshall at Sotheby’s on Wednesday. The $21.1 million dollar price tag is record breaking for the work of a living African-American artist.
“Past Times” depicts a black family enjoying an afternoon at a lakefront park. Like much of Marshall’s work, the image balances anxiety and celebration, depicting a positive image of blackness that can’t avoid tension with America’s racial reality. The piece is 13 feet wide, one of many wall-sized paintings Marshall has produced since the 1990s. The record sale follows a landmark winter 2016 retrospective of Marshall’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.