Thank you, Sylvester Stallone. And thank you, donor Bob Breitbard. The life-size “Rocky” bronze statue that, for years, raised its arms in victory in the San Diego Hall of Champions has a new private owner, who paid $403,657 for the privilege. The statue, a replica of the figure standing by the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art commissioned by Stallone for the 1982 “Rocky III” film, was one of 217 lots of Hall of Champions’ sports memorabilia offered online by SCP Auctions to fund the ongoing programs of the dismantled Balboa Park museum.
A lot of sports history changed hands in SCP’s Fall Premier Auction 2017. From gamers used by legends to key sports cards to 1,800-pound statues, there was a lot of variety among the items sold. Leading the way was one of the original bronze statues cast for Rocky III, which sold for $403,657. It had been a focal point of the San Diego Hall of Champions for more than two decades. Standing more than 12-feet tall with the base, the statue is just like the one that still stands outside the Philadelphia Art Museum.
SCP Auctions is proud to present an array or original works of art from the late NFL player-turned-painter Ernie Barnes as part of its current 2017 Fall Premier Auction. Each of the original pieces originates from the recently closed San Diego Hall of Champions museum and online bidding runs through Sat., November 4. Proceeds from the online auction will benefit the Hall’s ongoing awards and recognition programs, community outreach initiatives, and the Breitbard Hall of Fame, which was recently relocated to the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in Petco Park. The story of Ernie Barnes is one worth telling.
Ernest Eugene Barnes, who was born in 1938, would come to be celebrated as a great painter and charcoal illustrator, well known for his use of elongation and movement within his works. An African-American, he grew up in Durham, North Carolina and although he started at an early age, opportunities for black artists were unheard of in his youth. A self-described chubby kid, Barnes was bullied by classmates and often sought refuge in his sketchbooks, hiding in the less-traveled parts of campus. One day, young Ernest was found drawing in a notebook by the masonry teacher, Tommy Tucker, who was also the junior high school’s weightlifting coach. Tucker was intrigued with Barnes’ drawings so he asked the aspiring artist about his grades and goals. Tucker shared how bodybuilding improved his strength and outlook on life. That one encounter would change Barnes’ life. In his senior year at Hillside High School, he became captain of the football team and won a state title in the shot put. By the time he graduated, he had no less than 26 college football scholarship offers.
The six-foot-three, 250-pound Barnes went on to not only play college football and graduate from North Carolina College at Durham – where he majored in art – but made it to the AFL where he competed for five seasons (1960 to ’64) as an offensive lineman for the New York Titans, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. This up-close perspective of the game he loved would soon translate to his art.
“My drawings portray the moods and excitement of the game of football – a game that does strange things to men,” Barnes once said. “It makes them lose their heads. It makes them hate.”
In December of ‘59, Barnes was drafted by the then-World Champion Baltimore Colts. On Dec. 27, the offensive lineman watched his new team in person beat the New York Giants, 31-16, to win its second straight title. A couple of nights later, Barnes pulled out a canvas and began painting. At age 22, while at Colts training camp, Barnes was interviewed by N.P. Clark, a sportswriter for the Baltimore News-Post newspaper. Until then Barnes had always known by his birth name, Ernest. But when Clark’s article appeared on July 20, 1960, it referred to him as “Ernie” Barnes, which changed his name and life forever. As it turns out, Barnes was the last cut of the Colts’ training camp that summer. After Baltimore released him, the newly formed New York Titans immediately signed him.
In 1965 a fractured right foot ended Barnes’s pro football career and with that development he attended the NFL owners meeting in Houston with the hopes of becoming the league’s official artist. It was there he was introduced to New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin, who was intrigued by Barnes and his art. He paid for the artist to bring his paintings to New York City. They met at a gallery and unbeknownst to Barnes, three art critics were there to evaluate his paintings. They told Werblin that Barnes was “the most expressive painter of sports since George Bellows.” Werblin paid him a year’s salary to get started.
“One day on the playing field I looked up and the sun was breaking through the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, ‘That’s beautiful!’” Barnes once wrote. “I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I’d felt on the field into my paintings.”
His work, which mostly depicts black people, is kinetic and often vividly bright. The strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures. His most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” is a jubilant dancing scene that appeared not only on the cover of recording artist Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album “I Want You” but was also shown during the closing credits of the TV show “Good Times.” Though it’s not sports-related, it’s nonetheless a characteristic work of Barnes with its distinct vibrant tumble of bodies.
In 2009, Barnes died of complications caused by a rare blood disorder at the age of 70. In 2014, the Pro Football Hall of Fame hosted an exhibit featuring Barnes’s work. For the occasion, Bernie, his wife of 25 years, donated her husband’s prized painting entitled “The Bench” to the museum. It hangs there today, an example of Barnes’s ability to find beauty in an otherwise brutal game.
SCP Auctions is proud to present Barnes’ originals within its 2017 Fall Premier auction. Bidding is open to registered bidders only at www.scpauctions.com and initial bidding ends on Sat., Nov. 4, at 5 p.m. PDT. For more information on how to participate and take part in the bidding, please call 949-831-3700. -Terry Melia
San Diego sports fans were saddened when the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park closed its doors last summer. But those who have dried their tears can open their pocketbooks and bid on sports memorabilia items that were on display at the hall.
What you see: A limited edition monumental bronze statue of Rocky Balboa, commissioned from sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg for the 1982 film Rocky III. SCP Auctions estimates it at $500,000-plus.
The San Diego Hall of Champions has teamed up with SCP Auctions to put up over 200 items of San Diego sports memorabilia during its 2017 Fall Premier Auction event. From Tony Gwynn’s 1986 Gold Glove to a statue of Rocky Balboa, there are pieces for all sports fans. The online bidding runs through November 4 and all proceeds benefit the community programs run by the Hall.
You can now own a piece of San Diego sports history. The San Diego Hall of Champions is auctioning off items from its former museum in Balboa Park. Items up for bid include a Gold Glove trophy given to San Diego Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gywnn. “Everybody always remembers Tony as a great hitter,” said Terry Melia of SCP Auctions, the company selling the items. “Mr. Padre collected 3,141 hits, but he also earned five Gold Gloves during the course of his career, this is the very first one.”
The Rocky statue is one of Philadelphia’s most iconic sights. People line up everyday, often fresh off a run up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps to pose with the bronze behemoth. A second Rocky statue, made by A. Thomas Schomberg at the same time as the original, is about to be sold by SCP Auctions as part of their 2017 Fall Premier Auction.
SCP Auctions will be featuring 217 items from the recently closed San Diego Hall of Champions Museum in their 2017 Fall Premier auction including items from the careers of Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Gaylord Perry and other notable sports figures.