Sam Gilliam

American Artist

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The Value of Sam Gilliam Artwork (Artist Price Guide)

The Value of Sam Gilliam Artwork

Sam Gilliam emerged as a luminary within the realm of abstract art, his works characterized by their mesmerizing interplay of vibrant colors and fluid forms, evoking a sense of movement and emotion that captivates viewers. Beginning in the last couple of decades, his legacy has experienced renewed interest and growing curiosity. With this renewed reverence has also been an exponential spike in market dynamics, with one painting exceeding $2 million at auction in 2018. Click here to learn more about how you can determine the value of your artwork with a free estimate from Revere Auctions. 

Who Was Sam Gilliam?

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1933 to a family of eight children and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Gilliam exhibited creative talent at an early age. He pursued his passion for art, eventually earning both a BA and MA in painting from the University of Louisville in 1961, with a brief, two-year stint in the army in between. In 1962, Sam Gilliam married Dorothy Butler, the first female, African American reporter hired by the Washington Post, with whom he had three daughters. During this time period, Gilliam also emerged as a pivotal black artist and important figure in the Washington Color School movement, challenging traditional notions of painting with his pioneering techniques, bold use of color, dynamic compositions, and a profound sense of movement.

He continued making art, teaching, and mentoring until his passing in 2022. His groundbreaking experiments with draped, unstretched canvases revolutionized the art world, earning him international acclaim and cementing his status as an influential artist of the 20th century. In recent years, several major institutions including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Pace Galleries have added his works to their collections and held retrospectives on his eclectic career. 

  • Born/Died: November 30 1933 – June 25 2022
  • Nationality: American
  • Medium: Acrylic, Sculpture, Mixed Media
Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, "Jeune Fille Assise un Chat"

What is the Artist Sam Gilliam Known For?

Gilliam’s works span a wide range of mediums and styles, from his early experiments with acrylic paints to his later explorations of mixed media and sculptural installations. Throughout his illustrious career, he has remained committed to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression, creating works that defy categorization and invite viewers to engage with color and form in new and unexpected ways.

One of Gilliam’s most groundbreaking innovations was his draped canvas technique. Departing from the traditional practice of stretching canvas on wooden frames, Gilliam instead allowed his canvases to hang freely, cascading and billowing like fabric hung on a clothesline. Creating at the zenith of the Civil Rights Movement, this approach not only liberated painting from the constraints of the rectangular frame, transforming it into a three-dimensional, immersive experience, thereby imbuing his work with a dynamic and sculptural quality; it also spoke to greater, dramatic structural and systemic change within society.

Gilliam’s exploration of color was equally revolutionary. He infused his works with a rich palette that ranged from bold primaries to subtle pastels, creating compositions that pulsated with energy and emotion. His mastery of color theory and his willingness to push the boundaries of conventional pigment applications set him apart as a true visionary. Throughout his career, Gilliam’s work has been celebrated for its ability to transcend boundaries and defy categorization. His art deftly straddles the line between painting and sculpture, drawing inspiration from a diverse array of influences, including jazz music, African textiles and patchwork quilts, and the natural world. Each piece invites viewers on a journey of discovery, encouraging them to explore the intersection of form, color, and emotion. 

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Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, "Jeune Fille Assise un Chat"

What Mediums Did Sam Gilliam Use?

Gilliam’s artistic versatility is evident in his adeptness with various mediums. Primarily known for his acrylic paint on canvas, he also explored sculpture, incorporating materials such as wood, metal, and fabric into his creations. This multidimensional approach allowed Gilliam to blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture, further enriching his artistic expression.

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, "Jeune Fille Assise un Chat"

How Much are Sam Gilliam Works Worth?

The value of Sam Gilliam’s works can vary significantly, reflecting their artistic merit, historical significance, and market demand. Collectors and art enthusiasts alike are drawn to Gilliam’s bold experimentation and his profound impact on the evolution of abstract art. Scroll to the bottom to see past Sam Gilliam works sold by Revere Auctions!

  • Average Estimate for Paintings on Unstretched Canvas: $100,000-$300,000
  • Average Estimate for Paintings on Paper and Stretched Canvas: $10,000-$500,00
  • Average Estimate for Lithographs and Prints: $1,000-$20,000

What Determines the Estimate of a Sam Gilliam Artwork?


Gilliam worked with a wide variety of mediums throughout his decades-long career, but here are the important things to take into consideration:

  • Estimates for Gilliam’s prints are approximately one tenth of the average estimate of Gilliam’s paintings, which are more highly prized. 
  • Drape paintings and works on unstretched canvas are typically worth more than if they are on stretched canvas or paper due to their notoriety and rarity. 
  • Acrylic paintings and mixed media paintings generate higher estimates than watercolors. 
  • Gilliam’s sculptural works constructed of wood and metal among other media, are valued similarly to drape paintings—they are rare and highly prized.
  • Monotypes are the most sought after and valuable print due to their unique and singular nature.


Exhibition in major institutions or inclusion in a notable private collection will positively influence the estimate of a Sam Gilliam work. As an example, some of Gilliam’s paintings once belonged to the private collection of the renowned abstract printmaker Bill Weege, as they were close friends.


While he continued to create until his death, Gilliam produced much of his most significant work during the late 1960s-1970s.

Market Demand

The level of interest from individual collectors and institutions can fluctuate over time based on trends and cultural shifts.

  • Sam Gilliam’s recent passing in 2022 has elevated market demand.
  • Museums and major institutions planning to acquire Gilliam’s artwork for their collections has bolstered demand for his art.


Works with a signature by the artist will be worth more than works without.

Contact our specialists to learn more about the value of your Sam Gilliam works.

Values of Sam Gilliam Art Sold by Revere Auctions

Sam Gilliam, The Chartmaking

Acrylic on birch plywood depicting a colorful abstract composition,

Estimate: $20,000-$30,000

Sam Gilliam, Butterfly Days

Large mixed media artwork on handmade paper titled “Butterfly Days.” Acrylic, polypropylene, monoprint and paper collage on handmade paper.

Estimate: $20,000-$30,000

Sam Gilliam, Spear #5

Acrylic painting on paper with bold splashes and strokes of yellow and blue, with hints of warm reds, oranges, and purple.

Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
Result: $12,000

Sam Gilliam, Mark Squared

Small acrylic on birch plywood titled “Mark Squared” depicting a colorful abstract composition, 2000. With a three-dimensional element in the form of an irregular-shaped wedge projecting from the lower half of the artwork.

Estimate: $10,000-$15,000

Sam Gilliam, Nile

Lithograph on mulberry paper with blending of deep greens, blues, and purples.

Estimate: $1,000-$2,000
Result: $2,800

Revere Auctions Sells Your Sam Gilliam Art

Beyond monetary worth, the true value of Sam Gilliam’s art lies in its cultural and artistic significance. His innovative techniques and profound exploration of color continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide. To discover the value of your own artwork or to explore the world of art auctions further, consider getting a free appraisal from Revere Auctions, where experts can provide insights and guidance tailored to your collection.

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