Christie’s New York, May 17, 2017 – Lot 64B: NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “I Refuse to be Invisible,” 2010 (ink, charcoal, acrylic and transfers on paper, 117 3/4 x 82 inches). | Estimate $1.5 million-$2 million. Sold for $2,647,500 (including fees)

 

THIS EVENING, A MAJOR PAINTING by Njideka Akunyili Crosby is going on the auction block at Christie’s New York. Executed in 2010, “I Refuse to be Invisible” depicts a dancing couple in a close embrace. The large-scale painting is estimated to sell for $1.5 million to $2 million and will test the strength of the artist’s $3.1 million record achieved just two months ago.

As previously reported here, only three works by Akunyili Crosby have come to auction and they have all been record breakers, each exponentially surpassing the price reached by the previous lot. In the span of six months, sales for the Los Angeles-based, Nigerian-born artist have soared from less than $100,000 to more than $3 million. The latest high mark was achieved March 7, 2017, at Christie’s London when a painting called “The Beautyful Ones” sold for $3,075,774 (including fees).

In addition to “I Refuse to be Invisible,” which is featured in Christie’s May 17 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Rockefeller Center, four other works by Akunyili Crosby are coming to auction at this week’s contemporary sales in New York. “Harmattan Haze” (2014) is included in the May 18 afternoon sale at Christie’s. Sotheby’s is offering a 2002 painting, “Thread,” at the May 18 evening auction, and two drawings from 2009, “I’m Not a Witch Doctor” and “A Conflict of Interest,” at its May 19 day auction.

CHALLENGING THE CONVENTIONS of representation, Akunyili Crosby’s mixed-media paintings document the quotidian, reflect her personal experiences, and present a counter-narrative to stereotypical perceptions about the lives of contemporary Africans.

“I Refuse to be Invisible” is an important and particularly meaningful work in the relatively young painter’s increasingly recognized practice. The painting appeared in her first-ever survey exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Fla. Taking its title from the canvas, “I Refuse to be Invisible” (Jan. 28-April 24, 2016) was on view last year and an accompanying exhibition catalog was published. The painting is featured on the cover of the catalog, which is the first book published about Akunyili Crosby’s work.

The painting was also featured in her exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Drawing Center in New York, where she was awarded the 2016 Prix Canson drawing prize.

According to Christie’s, “I Refuse to be Invisible” was acquired directly from the artist by the present owner. When the painting was on view at the Hammer and Norton museums in 2015-2016, the display information cited it was on loan from the Collection of Connie and Jack Tilton. The owner of Tilton Gallery in New York and co-owner of Roberts & Tilton in Los Angeles, Jack Tilton died earlier this month.

In an essay in the exhibition catalog, curator Cheryl Brutvan considers “I Refuse to be Invisible,” describing the work at one of Akunyili Crosby’s first mature paintings, explaining its literary reference, and sharing insights from the artist about the work. Brutvan writes:

    “The center of the composition shows a short-haired black woman, whose dress is covered in the artist’s photo-based patterning, arm in arm with a man, whose skin is defined by the same pattern. He looks at her as she turns her head directly toward the viewer. Her features are barely perceptible. When asked if the title references African-American author Ralph Ellison’s ground-breaking novel “Invisible Man” (1952), about the experience of blacks in America, Akunyili Crosby acknowledges the indirect association. She recalls, ‘It just seems so relevant, that feeling of …invisibility that happens when you move here, and that happened to me when I moved here. That’s why I think representation is so important, that feeling of: Do you exist if you don’t see yourself? … On one hand, I refuse to be invisible—meaning I don’t want to not exist due to the lack of representation.’

“It just seems so relevant, that feeling of …invisibility that happens when you move here, and that happened to me when I moved here.”
— Njideka Akunyili Crosby

    “She continues, ‘I was thinking of painting this dark form that is doing a play with the painting, where this dark form goes through the whole piece and, from afar, the face of the girl blends into the background. So, it’s just this dark into dark, and it seemed nebulous, like she wasn’t clearly seen; but if you took time and came up to it and looked at it, she is very present, and regal, and proud, and clear. It’s just on you, the viewer, to take the time to come closer and look at it.'” CT
 

POST AUCTION this post has been updated with sales prices.

 

READ MORE about legislative efforts to win artist resale rights/royalties

 

BOOKSHELF
To further explore the work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby, consider “I Refuse to be Invisible” which was published to coincide with the exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art. The show was Akunyili Crosby’s first survey and the book is the first to document her practice and includes a lengthy interview with the artist.

 


Christie’s New York, May 18, 2017 – Lot 751: NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “Harmattan Haze,” 2014 (acrylic, color pencil, charcoal and Xerox transfer on paper, 83 x 83 7/8 inches). | Estimate $1 million-$1.5 million. Sold for $1,207,500 (including fees)

 


Sotheby’s New York – May 18, 2017 – Lot 10: NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “Thread,” 2012 (acrylic, charcoal, pastel, color pencil and Xerox transfers on paper, 52 x 52 inches). | Estimate $600,000-$800,000. Sold for $1,032,500 (including fees)

 


Sotheby’s New York, May 19, 2017 – Lot 402: NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “I’m Not a Witch Doctor,” 2009 (charcoal and ink wash on paper, 64 x 42 1/2 inches). | Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $200,000 (including fees)

 


Sotheby’s New York, May 19, 2017 – Lot 404: NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “A Conflict of Interest,” 2009 (charcoal on paper, 63 3/8 x 42 1/2 inches). | Estimate $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $396,500 (including fees)