CHRISTIE’S AUCTION HOUSE is providing an online platform for emerging and mid-career artists to sell their work. It’s not an auction, rather it’s a virtual selling exhibition with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the artists. “Say It Loud” is a collaboration with independent curator Destinee Ross-Sutton and features 22 international artists of African descent.

The exhibition is part of Christie’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and widespread calls for racial justice and police reform, corporations and cultural institutions have made public statements claiming “solidarity” with the Black community. In a similar vein, Christie’s is offering special programming.

 


YOYO LANDER, @yoyolander (b. 1986, South Carolina), Installation view of “Have Tears,” 2020 (cut water color paper on paper, Each unframed: 68 x 42 inches / 172.7 x 106.7 cm; Framed overall: 73 x 145.5 inches / 172.7 x 369.6 cm), “Say It Loud,” Christie’s New York, July 31-Aug. 18, 2020. | © Yoyo Lander, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 

The title of the exhibition is inspired by “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” the iconic 1968 song by James Brown. “Say It Loud” is the first in a series of Corporate Social Responsibility events planned by the global auction house focused on Black art and giving a voice to Black artists. The exhibition highlights a broad selection of artists, many of them exploring issues of representation and identity and notions of Blackness through portraiture.

Artists featured in the exhibition include Los Angeles-based YoYo Lander, whose collaged watercolors focus on the human figure; Eniwaye Oluwaseyi, a Nigerian artist dedicated to portraiture; string artist Joshua Michael Adokuru, who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria; and Collins Obijiaku of Suleja, Nigeria, who makes soulful painted portraits. Veteran New York City photographer Accra Shepp has been documenting the city during the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice protests. Nelson Makamo is based in Johannesburg. His work appeared on the cover Time magazine’s Art of Optimism issue, edited by Ava DuVernay in February 2019.

Christie’s selected 11 of the artists in “Say It Loud.” Harlem-based Ross-Sutton who advises collectors, manages artists, and curates exhibitions, contributed 10 artists to the show. One was suggested by the Harlem Arts Alliance. Once the participating artists were confirmed, Ross-Sutton curated the exhibition choosing the 42 works on view from July 31-Aug. 18, 2020. The press release announcing the exhibition concluded with the following statement from the auction house:

    Christie’s is committed to addressing systemic racism and discrimination in our society and creating a more diverse, socially engaged organization. It is our responsibility now and going forward to listen, understand, acknowledge, take action and celebrate the rich histories and the future promise that these artists represent. As we reflect upon the many manifestations of racism prevalent in our society, consult with external experts, and engage with the larger arts community, we begin a crucial journey towards creating permanent change—both here at Christie’s and more broadly throughout the art world.

To learn more about the virtual exhibition, the art, sales agreements, and Christie’s interest in Black artists, I reached out to Ross-Sutton and Celine Cunha, who works in Christie’s contemporary art department and is co-chairman of Employee Initiatives focused on diversity. Each provided responses by email:

 


BARRY YUSUFU, @barryyusufu_art (Nasarawa State, Nigeria), Installation view of “Love Thy Brother,” (charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 inches / 101.6 x 127 cm), “Say It Loud,” Christie’s New York, July 31-Aug. 18, 2020 | © Barry Yusufu, Courtesy the Artist and Carter Fine Art Services

 
Curator Destinee Ross-Sutton

Harlem-based Ross-Sutton has co-organized exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn, and more recently curated “BLACK VOICES/BLACK MICROCOSM,” a group exhibition of emerging artists presented a few months ago at CFHill Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden. The exhibition was installed in the gallery and displayed online, and remained open despite the global pandemic. Some of the artists in the Stockholm exhibition are slated to participate in a new version of the show Ross-Sutton is planning in Los Angeles. A selection of the artists are also included in “Say It Loud.”

CULTURE TYPE: How did the exhibition with Christie’s come about?

DESTINEE ROSS-SUTTON: It was through one of the artists that I manage, Eniwaye Oluwaseyi, who about a month ago was contacted by Celine Cunha at Christie’s, who then was referred to me. We started a conversation. I had several questions and came to the conclusion that this was really a genuine effort to enact change. That is one of my main purposes with my work. I then got more involved in this first initial project by Christie’s and see it as a start of a continued close collaboration to make a difference.

CULTURE TYPE: Tell me about choosing a selling exhibition at an auction house for that platform.

DESTINEE ROSS-SUTTON: This was not solely my choice, but rather Christie’s. However, it is wonderful, as most of them have never had their work shown by an institution of the level of Christie’s—and for several of them, it is their first time being in an exhibition in the U.S. I also feel that people are bored with always seeing the same artists, especially at auction houses! This exhibition is something fresh and exciting.

“People are bored with always seeing the same artists, especially at auction houses! This exhibition is something fresh and exciting.
— Destinee Ross-Sutton

CULTURE TYPE: Who are the artists? Are there a few you would highlight?

DESTINEE ROSS-SUTTON: That is a hard choice…but to mention a few, I would have to say Collins Obijiaku, Eniwaye Oluwaseyi, Juwon Aderemi and Joshua Michael Adokuru. All four of them are not only extremely talented artists with their own unique styles, they are also most wonderful human beings that all look out for each other.

Same with Khari Turner. I really like the juxtaposition between the detailed eyes and nose, putting emphasis on features common in Black people and the ambiguity of the other features, like eyes and hair. He takes features that can be used to demonize Black people and leaves us no choice but to look at them up close and begin to appreciate them as they are.

Of course I love YoYo Lander and her beautiful thoughtful and intimate portraits. The strength and bravery in being able to express one’s vulnerability in a time where that is often exploited is beautiful, and worthy of protection and cherishing.

I have always appreciated Nelson Makamo, ever since seeing his work in 2017, and including him in a selling exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA). He brings optimism and combats stereotypes of African people in states of destitution and hopelessness by creating imagery of African children and youth full of hope, joy, positivity and dreams.

 


NELSON MAKAMO, @nelsonmakamo (b. 1982, Modimolle, Limpopo, South Africa), “Untitled (From Blue Series),” 2020 (mixed media on canvas, 78.7 x 59 inches / 200 x 150 cm). | © Nelson Makamo, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 

CULTURE TYPE: Do you have professional relationships with the artists?

DESTINEE ROSS-SUTTON: Some were in my exhibition BLACK VOICES/BLACK MICROCOSM. Some of the artists I manage are a focal point of collectors who want to take advantage of the great interest in Black art, but their primary focus is to make a profit. (I prefer to say “manage” rather than represent as many galleries “represent” artists, but don’t really manage their careers in order to build a long-lasting solid career.)

I have taken it upon myself to try and make a difference and to help these artists maneuver a sometimes treacherous business, to make the right strategic decisions, to have proper sales agreements including clauses of no auction resale for three or five years, among other terms.

Christie’s is forwarding along any requests to me for the artists I manage, so I can furnish the buyers with my strict sales agreements to protect the artists. It was part of the basis of my collaboration with Christie’s that they are more than happy to support. (Editor’s Note: Christie’s confirmed cooperation with this sales request to Culture Type.)

As we all know from the last auctions how the work by Black artists are making record results with many works that were only recently acquired and the artists see nothing of that profit the sellers are making.

I’m very, very selective with where and with whom to place works and I have my four-page sales agreements with very strict terms. I’m even beginning to implement the “Projansky Agreement” (The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement) into mine. I have to at least try to make a difference in finding ways to invest in the legacy of the artist.

“I have taken it upon myself to try and make a difference and to help these artists maneuver a sometimes treacherous business, to make the right strategic decisions, to have proper sales agreements including clauses of no auction resale for three or five years, among other terms.”
— Destinee Ross-Sutton


ENIWAYE OLUWASEYI, @eniwaye_seyi (b. 1994, Ilorin, Nigeria, From the Yoruba Tribe), Installation view of “The Breakfast,” 2020 (diptych—oil on primed canvas, Each: 60 x 60 inches / 152.4 x 152.4 cm; Overall: 60 x 120 inches / 152.4 x 304.8 cm), “Say It Loud,” Christie’s New York, July 31-Aug. 18, 2020 | © Eniwaye Oluwaseyi, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 
Celine Cunha of Christie’s

A junior specialist in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art department in New York, Cunha is also part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives team, where she serves as co-chairman of Employee Initiatives.

CULTURE TYPE: Why is Christie’s taking on this cause and embarking on these events?

CELINE CUNHA: Historically, it has always been incredibly important to me as the co-chairman of the Employee Initiatives Group under Christie’s CSR to provide a platform to amplify artists’ voices, using the Christie’s space and global reach to give back directly to the artistic community.

“Say It Loud” naturally grew from this sense of responsibility, and it was especially important that each artist be able to voice their narratives and form their own image in this exhibition. It was also imperative that the artists benefit directly, so in “Say It Loud” the artists are receiving 100 percent of the proceeds of their sales.

CULTURE TYPE: What are the forthcoming exhibitions and initiatives in the series and when are they scheduled to occur?

CELINE CUNHA: Substantial programming including mentorship programs and programs specifically catering to collectors of color. We also look forward to the continuation of our partnership with Destinee Ross-Sutton and creating future initiatives together.

“It has always been incredibly important to me to provide a platform to amplify artists’ voices, using the Christie’s space and global reach to give back directly to the artistic community.” — Celine Cunha

CULTURE TYPE: I am curious about diversity at Christie’s. What is the demographic makeup of the organization’s employees?

CELINE CUNHA: Christie’s demographics are reflective of the commercial art industry and Christie’s leadership fully recognizes the need to improve diversity and inclusion within our organization, specifically for Black employees. Our goal is greater diversity across all specialities within the organization and at all levels, and we are currently implementing a series of short- and long-term actions to help us attract, retain and advance diverse talent and create a more inclusive and socially-engaged organization. (Editor’s Note: A Christie’s spokesperson said a specific demographic breakdown was not available and as a global company it “does’t require employees to self-identify in this way.”) CT

The interviews have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

 

“Say It Loud” is on view online at Christie’s New York, July 31- Aug. 18, 2020. The exhibition Viewing Room highlights select works and asking prices. Browse all artworks here

 

FIND MORE about “Say It Loud” and the artists included in the exhibition

EVENT A virtual artist talk and consortium organized by The Harlem Arts Alliance is scheduled for Aug. 5, 2020 at 1-3 pm EST. More Info

 

FIND MORE about curator Destinee Ross-Sutton on Instagram (@desti.knee)

 


JOSHUA MICHAEL ADOKURU, @josh_m_adokuru (b. 1999, Suleja, Nigeria, From the Edo Tribe ), “Untitled (Will),” 2020 (wool thread and nails on board
24 x 20 x 1 inches / 60.96 x 50.8 x 2.5 cm). | © Joshua Michael Adokuru, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


Asking Price $6,500 | JOSHUA MICHAEL ADOKURU, @josh_m_adokuru (b. 1999, Suleja, Nigeria, From the Edo Tribe), “Untitled (The girl in checkered outfit),” 2020 (wool thread and nails on board 36 x 24 x 1 inches / 91.44 x 60.96 x 2.5 cm). | © Joshua Michael Adokuru, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


ACCRA SHEPP, @accrashepp (b. 1962, New York, N.Y.), “Tuesday June 23, 2020, Protester, Defund the Police Rally, City Hall,” 2020 (gelatin silver photograph, Image: 14 x 14 inches / 35.6 x 35.6 cm; Sheet: 16 x 20 inches /40.6 x 50.8 cm), From edition of 10 with two artist’s proofs. Sold unframed. | © Accra Shepp, Courtesy the Artist

 


AZIKIWE MOHAMMED, @misterace12 (b. 1983, New York, N.Y.), “May 9th, Haulover Beach Park,” 2019 (acrylic on board, 23 x 31 inches / 58.4 x 78.7 cm). | © Azikiwe Mohammed, Courtesy the Artist

 


Asking Price $500 | JOSH PAIGE, @mister.paige (b. 1990, Brookly, N.Y.), “Target Practice (I),” 2020 (digital giclée print, 18 x 24 inches / 45.7 x 61 cm.), Limited edition of 5. | © Josh Paige, Courtesy the Artist

 


AMBROSE MURRAY, @ambrosia_the_nectar (b. 1996, Asheville, N.C.), “Violet Shadows/Iris Studies No. 3,” 2020, hand-embroidered with artist’s signature (acrylic on paper, sequins, embroidered denim and various textiles sewn on canvas, overlain by hand-dyed silk organza, Not stretched, Framed; Unframed: 18 x 15 inches / 45.7 x 38.1 cm.; Framed: 24 x 21 inches / 61 x 53.3 cm). | © Ambrose Murray, Courtesy the Artist

 


CARY FAGAN, @cary.fagan (b. 1990, Mesa, Ariz.), “Blood Shed,” January 2020, Florence, Italy (film photograph printed on Strathmore pure cotton paper), Available in: 8 x 10 inches / 20.3 x 25.4 cm, Edition of 12; 12 x 18 inches / 30.5 x 45.7 cm, Edition of 6; 16 x 20 inches / 40.6 x 50.8 cm, Edition of 4. Sold unframed. | © Cary Fagan, Courtesy the Artist

 


Asking Price $16,000 | JEROME LAGARRIQUE, @jlagarrigue (b.1973, Paris, France), “Jules with stripes (son),” 2019 (oil on linen, 50 x 50 inches / 127 x 127 cm). | © Jerome Lagarrique, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


Asking Price $17,000 | WONDERBUHLE, @wonderbuhle (b. 1989, Kwangcolosi, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa), “Ubuntu buyakha,” 2020 (acrylic and metallic gold on canvas, 89.8 x 63.4 inches / 228 x 161 cm). | © WonderBuhle, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


ALEXIS MCGRIGG, @_lexmcgstudio_ (b. 1989, Jackson, Miss.), “Duality: Encounter in Ultraviolet II,” 2020 (Procion dye, charcoal, & acrylic on heavyweight watercolor paper, Unframed: 68.5 x 42 inches / 174 x 106.7 cm). | © Alexis McGrigg, Courtesy the Artist

 


Asking Price $7,000 | ENIWAYE OLUWASEYI, @eniwaye_seyi (b. 1994, Ilorin, Nigeria, From the Yoruba Tribe), “I’ve been here,” 2020 (oil and acrylic on primed canvas, 60 x 48 inches / 152.4 x 121.9 cm). | © Eniwaye Oluwaseyi, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


Asking Price $6,000 | JUWON ADEREMI, @jayblaque (b. 2000 Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria, From the Yoruba Tribe), “Singer,” July 2020 (charcoal and oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches / 152.4 x 122 cm). | © Juwon Aderemi, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


KHARI TURNER, @khari.raheem (b. 1991, Milwaukee, Wisc.), “Entering Hope Adjacent,” 2020 (charcoal, acrylic, and oil paint on paper, 72 x 48 inches / 182.9 x 121.9 cm). | © Khari Turner, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


Asking Price $6,500 | COLLINS OBIJIAKU, @collins_obijiaku (b. 1995, Kaduna, Nigeria, From the Igbo Tribe), “Untitled,” 2020 (acrylic, oil color and charcoal on paper, 39.4 x 31.5 inches / 100 x 80 cm). | © Collins Obijiaku, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


AMANI LEWIS, @amanilewis_ (b. 1994, Baltimore, Md.) & KEISHA RANSOME, “Earl from Yonder (John 10:14),” 2020 (acrylic, pastel, glitter, textile, digital collage on canvas, 58 x 72 inches, 147.3 x 182.9 cm). | © Amani Lewis, Courtesy the Artist

 


AMANI LEWIS, @amanilewis_ (b. 1994, Baltimore, Md.), Negroes in the Trees #3 Acrylic,” 2019 (oil pastel, digital collage on canvas, 52 x 37 inches / 132.1 x 94 cm). | © Amani Lewis, Courtesy the Artist

 


Asking Price $15,000 | YOYO LANDER, @yoyolander (b. 1986, South Carolina), “The Deeper Longing is Greater Than Discomfort,” 2020 (cut water color paper on paper, 68 x 42 inches / 172.7 x 106.7 cm). | © Yoyo Lander, Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton & Associates

 


BARRY YUSUFU, @barryyusufu_art ( Nasarawa State, Nigeria), “The Dark Horse,” 2019 (charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 50 x 40 inches / 127 x 101.6 cm). | © Barry Yusufu, Courtesy the Artist and Carter Fine Art Services

 

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