PHILLIPS OPENED its latest contemporary evening auction in London with a mixed-media painting by Tschabalala Self. According to Phillips, “Lilith” (2015) is the first artwork by the artist to come to auction. The figurative work sold for £125,000 ($163,875 including fees), which was more than twice the estimate. The lot was sold at Phillips March 7 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London.


Lot 1: TSCHABALALA SELF, “Lilith, 2015 (oil, acrylic, flashe, fabric and dry leaf on canvas/linen, 183.1 x 172.2 cm / 72 1/8 x 67 3/4 inches). | Estimate £40,000 – 60,000. Sold for £125,000 / $163,875 including fees


Describing the work, the Phillips lot essay said: “In ‘Lilith’, the titular figure—who in Jewish tradition was Adam’s first wife before Eve—confidently strides across the canvas, pushing aside painted leaves with a collaged hand, as though profoundly unaware and untroubled by the viewer’s gaze.”

SELF’S WORK CONSIDERS the interconnected nature of race, gender, and sexuality; black femininity; and the significance of the Black female body as an iconic symbol in contemporary culture. She often forms her figures with exaggerated or abstracted features.

“The fantasies and attitudes surrounding the Black female body are both accepted and rejected within my practice, and through this disorientation, new possibilities arise,” Self states on her website. “I am attempting to provide alternative, and perhaps fictional explanations for the voyeuristic tendencies towards the gendered and racialized body; a body which is both exalted and abject.”

“The fantasies and attitudes surrounding the Black female body are both accepted and rejected within my practice, and through this disorientation, new possibilities arise.” — Tschabalala Self

BORN IN NEW YORK CITY, Self has an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale. She is a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and will present her work in a group exhibition with fellow residents at MoMA PS1. “Mood” opens June 9.

Meanwhile, “Tschabalala Self,” her first solo museum exhibition in the United States is at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle through April 28. The show features works across a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and video. At the same time, her “Bodega Run” project is on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, also until April 28.

The artist’s first exhibition in the UK was presented at Parasol Unit in London in 2017. In the foreword to the exhibition catalog, Ziba Ardalan founder and director of the foundation for contemporary art, writes, “Barely five years into her artistic career, the American artist Tschabalala Self has already presented us with a rich and bewildering body of work.”

THE FIRST LOT of the auction, Self’s work was given pride of place. The positioning is a striking comment on the up-and-coming artist’s regard in the market given the evening auction is the marquis sale generally reserved for a selection of prime lots at premium prices (29 lots), compared with the day sale where a wider selection of generally more moderately priced work are featured (135 lots).

The evening sale also featured works by three other African American artists—David Hammons, Kehinde Wiley, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Phillips made a short video to promote Self’s painting (see lot page). In the video, the auction house’s expert describes her technique, which involves drawing, stitching, and collage, and calls the approach “a stunning reinvention of figurative painting.” She further explains that due to the “incredible amount of hype” around Self’s work, featuring the painting as the first lot was a “no-brainer.” CT


FIND MORE about Tschabalala Self on her website


FIND MORE about artist resale royalties

FIND MORE about how Swizz Beatz is helping emerging artists keep all the proceeds from art fair sales and proposing a way collectors can ensure artists get a cut when their work is re-sold at auction or through a gallery


“Tschabalala Self” documents the artist’s first UK exhibition at Parasol Unit in London. The fully illustrated volume includes essays by Ziba Ardalan, founder and director of Parasol Unit, and curator Tom Morton, in addition to an interview with Tschabalala Self conducted by Ardalan.


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