Right off the Wall : PURVIS YOUNG (1943-2010) by Niki Fade 11/16/2022

Purvis Young - An original work being presented at auction

Purvis Young was an American artist from the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Young's work, often a blend of collage and painting, utilizes found objects and the experience of African Americans in the south. 

The dynamic life of Purvis Young began near Miami during WWII, in an area known paradoxically as Liberty City, segregation laws prohibited black Americans from resting and residing in Miami Beach.  Part of the sparsely populated outskirts of northern Miami, Liberty City was built to address poor housing conditions in the slums of the Overtown area. Young would eventually settle in Overtown and become an iconic part of telling the story of its people. Self-taught and strongly influenced by the style of old masters’ compositions - Young said “ I paint the world going on ….and I paint my dreams”.

It is important to Young and his legacy to state, that while he did spend a few years of his life in a Florida Penitentiary, the charge was Breaking and Entering, NOT robbery. Young was a  black man in Florida prior to the civil rights movement, and race and income inequality played a role in both his arrest and conviction. During his incarceration, he used his time to re-engage in artistic expression, firstly through drawing and later painting as well. For the rest of his career Young's work was often a blend of painting, drawing, and collaged elements from found objects.

The early 1970’s saw inspiration arrive for Young via the murals and art of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically works from Chicago and Detroit. His home at this point was the Overtown neighborhood of Miami and he began to adorn a local area known as  Goodbread Ally with a mural of his art. Painting and pasting found books, wood boards, pallets, and reclaimed surfaces from his environment, Young would hang these pieces in public view on the walls of the ally, named for the former abundance of Good Bakeries in the area. His work was so desired some went missing, taken by admirers and so recognizing an opportunity he sold it “ Right off the wall “ , in Goodbread Ally.

While his art may be considered naïve, the artist himself was not. In Young’s words “ I know enough to see…, I see the haves and the have-nots. I have friends in both. ” In wanting to show the establishment something, Young painted from life and imagination to create powerful images, often incorporating angels; black and white angels as he was clear to point out; in the documentary about his life. ( 2006  documentary titled Purvis of Overtown ) Young’s visual expressions have been favorably compared with African American Vernacular in the ability to convey culture, as well as the zeitgeist of the continuing struggle to be seen and heard fully as a person in America when a person is not wealthy and white.

The mural attracted attention, from local and national media.  Bernard Davis, the owner of the Miami Art Museum, became a patron of Young, providing both an income from his work and supplies to create and express his unique and at once universal artistic voice.  Davis died in 1973, leaving Young an established celebrity in the Miami area art scene. Later recognized and supported by patrons Jane Fonda, Damon Wayans, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd as well as galleries, museums, and collectors of art, Young was able to expand his base of admirers and enlarge his influence.

This untitled acrylic on board will be presented at Scott Daniel's on Saturday, December 10th, 2022.  

It is Lot 87, and it will open at $1,000 USD with no reserve.

The auction estimate is $5,000-$10,000 USD.  

Several other Black artist's works will be presented at this auction including an original Chukes sculpture verified by the artist himself. 

View the Chukes sculpture 

Original Purvis Young Acrylic on Board will be the highlighted feature of our December 10t

Reoccurring themes in his work were angels, wild horses, and urban landscapes. Through his works, he expressed social and racial issues and served as an outspoken activist about politics and bureaucracy. He is credited with influencing the art movement terms social expressionism or urban expressionism. The work continues to influence those who experience it and resonates strongly with the resurgence of Civil Rights and Human Rights in today’s collective consciousness. In 2018, he was inducted posthumously into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.


 Today his work is found in many private collections  and can be viewed in permanent public collections   including :  American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY ; The Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA ; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL ;The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC ; House of Blues, Chicago, IL : Hurn Museum of Contemporary Folk Art, Savannah, GA ; Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX ;The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ ;New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA ;Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC ; Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY; Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.