OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, paintings by emerging Black contemporary artists have been popular and garnered record-setting prices at major auction houses in New York and London. Increasingly, their work is also attracting high bids in Asian markets, both from Asian collectors and international buyers looking to purchase at auctions held whereever works that appeal to them are offered.

On June 8, Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale was held in association with Poly Auctions. Conducted by Phillips in Hong Kong, the auction featured a live feed from the salesroom at Poly in Beijing. Thirty-five lots were offered, including paintings by up-and-coming artists Jadé Fadojutimi, who works in abstraction, and Tschabalala Self, Amoako Boafo, and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, who focus on figuration.


Lot 7: JADÉ FADOJUTIMI, “Concealment: An essential generated by the lack of shade,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 200.5 x 140 cm. / 78 7/8 x 55 1/8 inches). | Estimate HK$600,000-800,000 ($76,900-103,000). Sold for HK$5,670,000 (US $730,692). RECORD


The paintings by the rising artists all originated from European galleries. In the case of Boafo, from a European collector who acquired the work directly from the artist.

When the final lot hammered at the end of the auction, 100 percent of the lots had sold. The sales total was HK $491,820,000 (US $63,395,598). Five auction records were set, including a new benchmark for Fadojutimi.

Fadojutimi’s “Concealment: An essential generated by the lack of shade” (2019) performed particularly well. An expressive abstract painting, dominated by seafoam green, the lot sold for HK $5,670,000 (US $730,692), garnering more than seven times the high estimate HK $600,000-800,000 (US $76,900-$103,000). The new auction record nearly doubled her previous high, which was set in December 2020 when “Lotus Land” (2017) sold at Phillips New York for $378,000. That result was also exponentially higher than the estimate ($40,000-$60,000).

Traces of figuration can be found in Jadé Fadojutimi’s abstract works, which are fueled by introspection, exploring mood, memory, and her quest for identity.

“My practice and my way of life are one. They feed each other and my work questions identity through my own experiences so I believe that we are constantly changing,” Fadojutimi said in a video for the Liverpool Biennial 2021. “We are like continuously fluctuating color, in a sense, and so my practice takes the opportunity to recognize or pause and recognize the things I’m drawn to,” including music, rich color and Japanese anime.

In the weeks since “Concealment…” set a new artist record, two additional paintings by Fadojutimi have sold at auction (“Untitled,” 2018 at Phillips New York on June 23 and “I’m pirouetting the night away,” 2019 at Sotheby’s London on June 29). Both of these works also surpassed $378,000, but did not eclipse the price reached for “Concealment…,” which stands as the artist’s record at auction.

Traces of figuration can be found in Fadojutimi’s abstract works, which are fueled by introspection, exploring mood, memory, and her quest for identity.

“Gaze I” (2018), a self-portrait by Boafo also far exceeded expectations, selling for HK $2,772,000 (US $357,227), which was more than three times the high estimate of HK $600,000-800,000 (US $76,900-103,000). Over the past three years, Boafo has won global acclaim for his portraits of his friends and creative leaders he admires. His self-portraits, in particular, are highly coveted. He says the paintings are all about documenting and celebrating Blackness.


Lot 21: THEASTER GATES, “Dirty Red,” 2016 (fire hose and wood, 5 parts, overall 152.3 x 660.8 cm. / 59 7/8 x 260 1/8 inches). | Estimate HK $4,600,000-6,200,000 ($590,000-795,000). Sold for HK $5,922,000 (US $763,168)


“Dirty Red” (2016), a major work composed of decommissioned fire hoses by Theaster Gates was also featured in the sale. Part of the Chicago artist’s Civil Tapestry series, the mixed-media works are made out of decommissioned fire hoses and read as color field paintings.

Gates has been producing the works for more than a decade. Loaded with meaning, the materials reference the violence police in Birmingham, Ala., and elsewhere, unleashed on peaceful protestors during the Civil Rights Movement, mowing down mostly Black people with relentless streams of water from the high-pressure fire hoses. Acquired from Regen Projects in Los Angeles, the lot sold within the estimate for HK $5,922,000 (US $763,168).

The result was the second-highest price paid for a work by Gates at auction, behind “A Flag For the Least of Them” (2018), another fire hose work, that sold in 2018 at a (RED) benefit auction at Sotheby’s in Miami, Fla., for $807,000.

Gates was the 2018 Nasher Prize Laureate. The prize given by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, is considered the most significant in the world dedicated to contemporary sculpture. Gates was the first American honored with the award, which was accompanied by an exhibition of five works, including “Dirty Red.”

“The Civil Tapestries their intent was seduction, not guilt,” Gates has said. “After the seduction when you are fascinated by something that looks like a cousin to a pre-exisiting genre of art history then the story would grab you. While making these things that were intentionally precise, intentionally seductive they also had offcuts. The nozzles from these hoses, what felt like a kind of shrapnel. The fire hose that was used to do great things could actually be some of the most demeaning and horrific weapons used in American history. The caged hose works could be the evidence of that past.” CT


ABOUT RESULTS Final sale prices include fees. Estimates do not include fees.


READ MORE about how blockchain technology provides a means by which artists can ensure royalties on future sales of their work, from Artnet News


Lot 4: TSCHABALALA SELF, “KLK,” 2017 (acrylic, fabric and painted canvas on canvas, 243.8 x 213.4 cm. / 95 7/8 x 84 inches). | Estimate HK $1,500,000-2,500,000 (US $192,000-$321,000). Sold for HK $3,150,000 (US $405,940).


Lot 5: AMOAKO BOAFO, “Gaze I,” 2018 (oil on paper, 140 x 100 cm. / 55 1/8 x 39 3/8 inches). | Estimate HK $600,000-800,000 (US $76,900-$103,000). Sold for HK $2,772,000 (US $357,227)


Lot 11: KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, “The Egg,” 2016 (oil and acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. / 59 x 78 3/4 inches). | Estimate HK $800,000-1,200,000 (US $103,000-$154,000). Sold for HK $1,764,000 (US $227,326)


Published earlier this year, “Jadé Fadojutimi: Jesture” is the first book to document Fadojutimi’s work and includes an essay by Jennifer Higgie of Frieze magazine. “Art on the Frontline: Mandate for a People’s Culture” by Angela Y. Davis is illustrated by Tschabalala Self. Also consider, “Beyond the Black Atlantic: Sandra Mujinga, Paulo Nazareth, Tschabalala Self, Kemang Wa Lehulere.” Recent volumes from Theaster Gates include “Theaster Gates: Every Square Needs a Circle,” which documents an exhibition at Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago. “Theaster Gates: Black Madonna” was published on the occasion of his exhibition at Kuntsmuseum Basel. “Theaster Gates: Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories” is forthcoming later this month.


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