Famous 'Good Times' painting bought by Houston man for $15 million, now on display at MFAH

Do you remember or should I say it’s hard to forget the iconic painting shown in the credits of the 70s sitcom "Good Times." It was recently bought by a Houston man, and he’s loaning it to one of Houston’s finest museums.

One glance at the well-known work of art, and you immediately recognize it from the small screen 70s show about the Evans family, sometimes finding it tough to enjoy Good Times. The painting is called The Sugar Shack, and it was recently bought by Houston businessman Bill Perkins for more than $15 million.

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"I would have to say this is part of a dream come true. I call my life a happy absurdity," laughs Perkins. 

The proud new owner of The Sugar Shack painting is certainly enjoying good times after he beat out more than 20 others at a Christie’s auction paying $15.2 million for the dynamic dance hall masterpiece that was used on Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ album cover and prominently featured in the credits of the 1970s sitcom Good Times.

"I’m thrilled. It is surreal that I’m able to see this on TV as a kid then actually posses this painting. When you look at a painting like this you start to ask questions like where are they? Why are they so happy?  What was going on in the period? What do you mean the segregated south? There’s joy, sin, fun going on despite the circumstances going on in the south," Perkins explains.  

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Born in 1938, former football player and artist Ernie Barnes created the work after growing up in the segregated south. 

"It’s almost absurd to become an artist. It’s very difficult, but to be an African American artist born in the 30s, it’s even just completely ludicrous, like who’s going to buy your work?" asks Perkins.  

The Sugar Shack was expected to sell for $200,000, but a bidding war sent the sales price soaring into the millions even higher than a Monet and Picasso that sold that same day.  

"The bias in the market has allowed me to basically get these things dirt cheap," Perkins says nonchalantly, and I chime in, 'Right. Dirt cheap. Let me pull that out of my right pocket.’ Perkins laughs, "Well a lot of people say that. It’s worth $100 million to me," Perkins says. 

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The commodities trader and movie producer now has a number of Barnes' paintings and is loaning The Sugar Shack to Houston’s Fine Arts Museum, but there is one Barnes missing from his collection. 

"I tried to acquire another version of this (The Sugar Shack) painting from Eddie Murphy. I called his assistant, and they were like, go away kid. So I bought copies of the album and I have the album hanging on my wall, which the album cover is this painting, Marvin Gaye’s album. So that is the temporary version of the Barnes painting, and now I have the original."

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Perkins favorite character on the canvas is a guy who seems to be having the time of his life. 

("What do you love about him?) That’s me. He’s having fun. He’s by himself but enjoying the music. Just dancing hanging out. He’s completely vibing, dancing. That guy is me," Perkins smiles. 

The Sugar Shack will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston through the end of the year. A little secret? Admission into the museum is free on Thursdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.