yams collective

A REVIEW OF THE WEEK’S NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS IN THE ART WORLD
Featuring Yams Collective, Thomas J. Lax, Christian Rosa and contemporary auction results

Yams Collective Pulls Out of Whitney Biennial
As the final days of the Whitney Biennial approach, a race-related kerfuffle has emerged. The Yams, (shown above) a collective of 38 mostly black and gay artists, withdrew from the museum’s semiannual event (March 7 to May 25, 2014) over the participation of another artist and his controversial project. Founded by abstract artist Sienna Shields, the Yams (short for HowDoYouSayYaminAfrican? or How Do You Say Yam in African?), a global amalgam of visual artists, musicians, poets, writers and actors, objected to the work of Joe Scanlan, a white artist and professor who for years has exhibited as Donelle Woolford, a black female performance artist. Scanlan showcases her art and backstory, hiring black actresses to impersonate and perform as her. For the biennial, Woolford is performing “Dick’s Last Stand,” a stand-up routine in tribute to Richard Pryor. Hyperallergic has been reporting on the developing story, including statements from all parties involved. The dispute raises all manner of issues, freedom of speech, racial exploitation and representation and matters of creative license, among them.

Black Artists Exceed Estimates at Contemporary Auctions
Works by Mark Bradford, El Anatsui, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu and Martin Puryear were among the lots offered at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips spring contemporary art sales this week, exceeding estimates and in the case of Puryear, setting an auction record.

The major auction houses held eight sales from May 12 to May 16. martin_puryear_untitledThe late Jean-Michel Basquiat and Romare Bearden, and more than a dozen living black artists were featured, including Bradford, El Anatsui, Ligon, Mehretu, Puryear, Rashid Johnson, Oscar Murillo, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, Andres Serrano, Henry Taylor, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Kehinde Wiley. Among more than 1,200 lots, their numbers were low, but considering that only a few works by black artists generally appear at these auctions (where in most cases individual collectors consign works for sale) their representation was significant. In addition to Basquiat, whose original paintings are valued in the seven- and eight-figure range, several works by living artists sold for more than a million dollars.

CHRISTIE’S | At Christie’s “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday” auction on May 12, Ligon’s 1990 “Untitled #1 (Second Version),” sold for $2,629,000 (including fees) more than double its estimate. One of Ligon’s early text paintings, it repeats the thought-provoking phrase “I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background.” At the same sale, works by Hammons and Mark Bradford also sold north of a million dollars.

The evening edition of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sale on May 13, featured Mehretu (“Believer’s Palace”) and Puryear, whose 1989 untitled red cedar and pine sculpture (shown at left) from the collection of Frances R. Dittmer sold for $1,805,000, more than twice the high estimate and an auction record for Puryear. At the afternoon session of Christie’s May 14 sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Mehretu’s “Excerpt (Molotav Cocktail)” realized $1,805,000, exceeding its estimate. Earlier this month, artnet News ranked Mehretu among the most expensive living women artists, making her work the most expensive of any black female artist.

SOTHEBY’S | Works by more than a dozen black artists were on the auction block at Sotheby’s May 15 day sale. Highlights included another Bradford lot, “Clapback,” which sold for $2,045,000, well above its $600,000 to $800,000 estimate. Works by El Anatsui and Hammons also surpassed estimates at the sale. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s May 14 evening sale included Chris Ofili’s “Afrodizzia.”

PHILLIPS | On May 15 at Phillips contemporary evening sale, Bradford’s “Bet You Better Not Get Old” garnered $1,205,000.

“At Christie’s Martin Puryear’s 1989 untitled red cedar and pine sculpture from the collection of Frances R. Dittmer sold for $1,805,000, more than twice the high estimate and an auction record for Puryear.”

The Studio Museum’s Thomas J. Lax Joins MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art has appointed Thomas J. Lax associate curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art. In the new post, he will work on MoMA exhibitions and acquisitions, performance programs and screening events. Lax served as assistant curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where for seven years he organized more than a dozen exhibitions, including “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South,” which is currently on view, and other museum programs.

Catching Up with Painter Christian Rosa
Emerging painter Christian Rosa has recently appeared at Berlin Gallery Weekend and Frieze New York and appears in the current group show “Black Eye” in New York. Born in Brazil, Rosa grew up in Vienna. In “Catching Up with Rising Star Christian Rosa,” Artnet News talks with him about his influences, artistic maturity and major gallery appearances around the world in the coming year. CT

TOP IMAGE: Members of the Yams Collective by Karsten Moran for The New York Times via The Times