Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting titled “Dustheads” sold for $48.8 million yesterday at Christie’s at a sale of postwar and contemporary art in New York, setting a new auction record for Basquiat. His “Untitled,” a painting of a black fisherman, held the previous record when it sold for $26.4 million last November. Also breaking world auction prices for artists were works by Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock.
Lichtenstein’s “Woman with Flowered Hat” fetched $56 million. A classic example of pop art, the 1963 painting is based on Pablo Picasso’s portrait of his lover Dora Maar. An important drip painting by Pollock, “Number 19,” realized a record $58.3 million. Christie’s says Wednesday’s auction brought in $495 million, the highest total at any art auction.
Ghanaian artist Tafa has imbued his vibrant oil paintings with motion by stroking thick layers of paint across each canvas with a palette knife. Inspired by his West African heritage – especially the colors and patterns of Kente cloths and the rhythm of traditional drums – Tafa rose to prominence as an artist in his own country in the 1990s before moving to New York. His imagery encompasses sporting themes, as well as spirituality and music.
“I paint sports themes because they are a universal form of communication that is replete with powerful, multi-layered symbolism. Team sport fosters hard work, fraternity, excellence, and international understanding … It is an area of life that underlines Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision that people should be judged by the content of their character.” To see more of his inspiring works, click here.
Masks in Malvin Gray Johnson’s painting “Negro Masks” (1932). (Librado Romero/The New York Times)
It’s easy to take for granted just how quickly art travels today, whether by JPEG or shipping crate. For a sense of how slow things were just a century ago, and how much could get lost en route from one continent to another, visit “African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde,” a small but highly compelling show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of several exhibitions timed to the centennial of the Armory Show of 1913, where many New Yorkers caught their first glimpse of Modern art from Europe (much of it influenced by African sculpture).
Meticulously researched and thoughtfully presented by Yaëlle Biro, the Met’s assistant curator in the department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, it tells the story of African art’s early reception in the United States with exceptional candor. And it makes clear that Americans received Modern art and African art as a single import, derived from French and Belgian colonies, distilled in Paris and presented on these shores by a few tastemaking dealers and collectors.
Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe Portraits by this artist in this Brooklyn Museum show. (Librado Romero/The New York Times)
Mickalene Thomas’s brash, exuberant paintings don’t care what you think of them; they are much too busy simply — or not so simply — being themselves. Their sense of independence is driven home by this artist’s invigorating exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, along with the realization that the museum’s populist program sometimes hits the nail on the head.