Reader asks about prints by artist Cal Massey
Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of the items that they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.
This week’s question is about three prints by artist Cal Massey.
I found your site while looking for African-American art, specifically work by Cal Massey. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. I buy storage units and have recently purchased a unit containing what appear to be 3 signed Artist Proofs by Cal Massey. It would be grand and sincerely appreciated if you could provide any information regarding having the pieces authenticated, valued and/or brought to market.
The reader initially didn’t send me any photos, but from what he described he has three Cal Massey prints, which could be original prints such as serigraphs or lithographs, or limited-edition or open-edition prints. They would have to be closely examined to tell what they are.
Massey is an African American artist who lives in New Jersey, according to a 2009 interview. He grew up just outside Philadelphia, and started drawing when he was 4 years old. He has worked for Marvel Comics and others, advertising agencies in New York and Philadelphia, and the Franklin Mint. He has also illustrated children’s books.
He was one of 13 artists commissioned to create a commemorative medal for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. His was called “The High Jump,” and it showed a black woman in a high-jump pose. He also created a painting in conjunction with a sculpture at Valley Forge (PA) National Historical Park called Patriots of African Descent. It was issued as a limited edition print in the early 1990s.
I’ve seen Massey’s prints at art shows and small gallery/frame shops for years, many of them open-edition prints that were produced in large quantities. His limited-edition prints were normally signed. Most of those works depicted strong images of black women, some in African garb.
One resource for you is October Gallery and ArtJaz Gallery, both in Philadelphia and both of which sell Massey’s works. October has a Massey oil painting for sale on its website for $27,000, which I think is exorbitant. Maybe either gallery owner could give you an eyeball estimate of the value of your works.
I also suggest that you Google to see if there are any art galleries near you that are familiar with him. These galleries may have customers who are looking for prints like yours. I always warn against selling to anyone who appraises your works, but there’s nothing wrong with having them sell them in their gallery. Keep in mind that gallery owners will charge a fee for the service.
At my request, the reader sent me photos of the three prints, along with the titles. They were “The Ashanti Woman” – Massey used his artist-wife as the model – “Ghana High Fashion Madonna” and “The Baule Madonna.” The prints were signed by Massey, and all had A.P. for Artist’Proof in the right corner.
The titles were printed – not handwritten by the artist as is commonly done, indicating that these were likely open-edition prints or posters signed by the artist. I could not find similar pieces (I did find some posters) on the web, so they are likely out of print and no longer in circulation.
None of Massey’s prints seemed to have been sold on the web recently, according to my research, so I wasn’t able to affix a market price to the reader’s stash.
The three prints have a history as a collection. Johnson Products Co. gave away them away as free Black History Month gifts in the February 1983 edition of Ebony magazine. They were part of a collection called “African Women in Perspective.” Unframed prints could be had for proof of purchase of Johnson Products Co.’s Ultra Sheen, plus $1 for postage and handling. Or they all could be purchased framed for $17.95, plus $2 postage and handling. These did not appear to have been signed and the titles were not printed on them.
A year later, Black Enterprise magazine made the same offer with reproductions of three different works by Massey.
Here are some works by Massey that were inspired by the universe and planets.