A SELF-PORTRAIT by Jordan Casteel sold at Phillips last night. The painting tells a visual story. It depicts the artist, documents a chronic health issue, and unpacks a narrative about her life in Denver before she enrolled in the MFA program at Yale and later participated in the artist-in-residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

A mixed-media painting acquired directly from the artist, “Self-Portrait” (2012) was estimated to sell for $60,000-$80,000 at Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City. The price realized far exceeded expectations, reaching $237,500 (fees included)*, about three times the high estimate.


May 16, 2019 | Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, New York City

Lot 18: JORDAN CASTEEL, “Self-Portrait,” 2012 (oil and paper collage-with ink, graphite and colored pencil-on canvas, 55 7/8 x 43 7/8 inches / 141.9 x 111.4 cm). | Estimate $60,000-80,000. Sold for $237,500 fees included ($190,000 hammer price)


The Phillips lot essay describes the self-portrait, providing background information and context for many of the details Casteel incorporated in the painting:

    …[Casteel is] surrounded by collaged sketches and letters written by her students from her time as a special education teacher in Denver prior to attending the Yale School of Art. The notes provide an intimate look at Casteel’s previous life before beginning her career as an artist, some containing colorful block letters spelling out “CASTEEL,” identifying the sitter. She is seated with an IV in her left arm, a reference to her daily routine spent managing lupus, the autoimmune disease she was diagnosed with during her first year of college. Throughout her development as an artist, Casteel acknowledges the profound effect that the disease has had, making her someone, as she describes, who “really desires authenticity, because everything else feels so fleeting.”

“Self-Portrait” is one of three portrait paintings by Casteel that have appeared at major auction houses, all in 2019. Another painting also sold yesterday, this one at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session in New York. “Jonathan” (2014) was estimated at $100,000-$150,000 and brought $325,000, twice the high estimate.

Earlier this year, on March 6, a double portrait set an artist record at Christie’s London. “Patrick and Omari” (2015) was featured in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Estimated at 40,000-60,000 British Pounds, the painting sold for 299,250 British Pounds ($392,915), approximately five times the anticipated price.


March 6, 2019 | Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, London

Lot 1: JORDAN CASTEEL (1989), “Patrick and Omari,” 2015 (oil on canvas, 71 7/8 x 56 1/8 inches / 182.6 x 142.5 cm). | Estimate 40,000-60,000 British Pounds. Sold for 299,250 British Pounds ($392,915) fees included. RECORD


BORN AND RAISED in Denver, Colo., Casteel earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga. (2011) and an MFA in painting and printmaking from the Yale School of Art (2014). She was in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2015-16 and is currently an assistant professor of painting at Rutgers University.

Her solo exhibition “Jordan Casteel: Harlem Notes” was presented at the Harvey Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C. (2017). “Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze” is on view at the Denver Museum of Art through August 2019 and then travels to Stanford University’s Canter Center for Visual Arts.

Considered her first major museum exhibition, the show at her hometown museum includes portraits from 2014-2018 of young African American men and vendors, business owners, and local characters from her Harlem neighborhood, alongside newer work focused on cityscapes, subway scenes, and portrayals of women.

Two self-portraits Casteel produced in 2014 (two years after the self-portrait that sold at Phillips) are illustrated in the catalog for “Returning the Gaze,” although they are not among the paintings displayed in the exhibition. Curator Rebecca R. Hart opens her catalog essay with an assessment of the self-portraits:

    From the first, Jorden Casteel has trusted both the casual glance and the extended gaze. Two early self-portraits, when considered together, set the coordinates for her studio practice over the past eight years. In one, she captures the momentary as she peeks over her shoulder while seated in an interior space. The second shows a frontal portrait bust painted with an expressionistic palette of rich browns, rose, periwinkle, and gold. While the first captures just the glimpse of the artist’s eye, the second shows the artist looking outward, returning the gaze, allowing her audience to see her, perhaps wondering whether they will engage with her. As her practice has evolved, it has continued to be informed by this balance between grabbing hold of a brief encounter recorded in a photograph and absorbing the essence of the sitter through a lengthy, meditative process. The tension between the fast and the slow, the quick glance and the prolonged gaze, map her evolution as a portrait painter.

In “Self-Portrait,” the lot that sold at Phillips, Casteel embraces the latter, directly engaging the viewer with a slow, prolonged gaze. CT


* Fees included in sales results, unless otherwise noted


FIND MORE about Jordan Casteel on her website


FIND MORE “Lost Tribes,” a fourth painting by Jordan Casteel came to auction in 2018 (selling for $81,250), part of the Sotheby’s Creating Space sale benefitting the Studio Museum in Harlem. A detail image, the work focused on a man’s hands holding a book titled, “Lost Tribes and Promised Lands.” The subtitle of the book by Ronald Sanders is “The Origins of American Racism.”

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


The exhibition catalog for “Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze” is fully illustrated and includes written contributions from Rebecca R. Hart, the exhibition curator, Greg Tate, Isolde Brielmaier, and Elizabeth Alexander. The publication is currently available exclusively through the Denver Museum of Art.


May 16, 2019 | Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session, New York City

Lot 802: JORDAN CASTEEL (b. 1989), “Jonathan,” 2014 (oil on canvas, 73 7/8 x 53 ¾ inches / 187.6 x 136.5 cm). | Estimate $100,000-$150,000. Sold for $325,000 (fees included)


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