lynette yiadom-boakye - knave


THE THREE MAJOR AUCTION HOUSES—Christie’s, Sothebys and Phillips—held contemporary art sales during Frieze London and the events yielded a number of artist records, including career high values for Mark Bradford and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Known for her deft portrayals of compelling figures, Yiadom-Boakye far exceeded pre-sale expectations at Christie’s London on Oct. 16. “Knave” (above), an oil on canvas painting by the British artist was the first lot of the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction and provided a lively opening. Estimated to sell for $91,620 – $122,160, the 2011 work garnered $690,736 (including fees)—more than five times the high estimate.

frieze - cover - april 2012According to a Christies press release, “The painting was pursued on the telephone and in the room, going on to set a new artist’s record, at more than tripling her previous record of £146,500 [about $224,550].”

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s painting “was pursued on the telephone and in the room, going on to set a new artist’s record.” — Christie’s

“Knave” appears on the April 2012 cover of Frieze magazine, inside Jennifer Higgins profiles Yiadom-Boakye in “A Life in a Day.”

The artist does not paint portraits of real people, rather she depicts people she has conjured up — fully formed subjects who appear to have complicated, interesting lives and deep backstories.

“They’re so full of personality that their fiction is initially a little unsettling. This is compounded by their technical proficiency: without the aid of photographs, models or preliminary sketches, Yiadom-Boakye wields her paintbrush with an old-fashioned ease and fluency,” Higgins writes. “When I first saw her paintings, I assumed that they took a long time to make, but each one is, in fact, made in a day.”

Yiadom-Boakye is presenting an exhibition of new works at Haus der Kunst in Munich. “Capsule 03: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” opens Oct. 30.


MARK BRADFORD, “Constitution IV,” 2013 (mixed-media on canvas). | Estimate $3,040,000-$4,560,000. Sold for $5,743,320 (including fees)


AT PHILLIPS LONDON’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Oct. 14, Bradford’s “Constitution IV” set a new record for the Los Angeles artist. Created in 2013, the mixed-media painting sold for 3,778,500 pounds ($5,743,320 including fees) nearly twice the high estimate of more than 4 million pounds.

Bradford’s abstract mixed-media paintings are layered canvases that reflect his own experience and reference issues of social justice.

As described Phillips, Bradford “cites entire sections of the U.S. constitution over four canvases that form his Constitution series from 2013. By physically shredding and scraping strips of this important text, Bradford in one way arguably reduces its historical and political significance. On the other hand, the vibrant flickering surface evokes the Constitution’s status as a living document, constantly open to modification.”

Mark Bradford “cites entire sections of the U.S. Constitution…the vibrant flickering surface [of the painting] evokes the Constitution’s status as a living document, constantly open to modification.” — Phillips

Bradford’s previous record was set arlier this year, when “Smear,” a 2015 painting sold for more than $4.3 million at Sotheby’s on May 12.

Highly regarded for many years, Bradford has greatly expanded his portfolio over the past two. He co-founded Art + Practice, an arts and education foundation—including gallery space, a residency program, a black-owned bookstore and programming that serves local foster youth—near his studio in Leimert Park. He joined the board of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. He presented “Scorched Earth” at the Hammer Museum, his first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles where he was born and raised and lives and works.

Earlier this month, Bradford announced he would be installing a monumental 360-degree work at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the project is his first presentation in Washington, D.C. and opens in November 2016.

“Be Strong Boquan,” an exhibition of new Bradford works opens on Nov. 6 at Hauser & Wirth, the artist’s New York gallery.


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FAITH RINGGOLD, “Maya’s Quilt of Life,” 1989 (acrylic on canvas and painted, dyed and pieced fabrics). Estimate $150,000 – $250,000. Sold for $461,000 (including fees)


LAST MONTH, SWANN AUCTION GALLERIES in New York handled the art collection of Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Interest was enthusiastic throughout the Sept. 15 sale with almost every lot far exceeding estimates. The top lot was “Maya’s Quilt of Life” by Faith Ringgold. With a pre-sale estimate of $150,000 to $250,000, quilt’s price soared beyond expectations, selling for $461,000 (including fees).

Composed of acrylic on canvas and painted, dyed pieced fabrics, the 1989 quilt was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey as a birthday gift for Angelou. It features excerpts from Angelou’s writings and is inscribed in part: “This painted story quilt is a tribute to the universal wisdom and strength of Maya Angelou, the phenomenal woman, writer, poet, thinker and human being.”

“This painted story quilt is a tribute to the universal wisdom and strength of Maya Angelou, the phenomenal woman, writer, poet, thinker and human being.” — Quilt inscription

Swann said it was the first story quilt by Ringgold to come to auction and that it was purchased by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

The Swann sale also included several lots by John Biggers (1924-2001). One achieved an auction record for the late artist. “Kumasi Market,” a panoramic oil and acrylic on masonite board brought $389,000 (including fees). CT


TOP IMAGE: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Knave,” 2011 (oil on canvas). Estimate $91,620 – $122,160. Sold for $690,736 (including fees)


Published last year, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” is rife with full-page images and surveys her career to date. “Constitution IV” is featured in “Mark Bradford: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank.” And Faith Ringgold’s latest volume, “Harlem Renaissance Party,” is a children’s book.


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