Awol Erizku - AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN New York Friday, February 8, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    The Artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1988, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Lives and works in New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA

    2014 MFA, Yale University, New Haven, CT
    2010 BA, The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY

    Selected museum exhibitions: The FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence
    Selected public collections: The FLAG Art Foundation, New York and the Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, Michigan

    LA-based artist Awol Erizku is among the most exciting artists of his generation. Installation, performance, photography, conceptual art and social media meld in his hands to create a vibrant currency. Deftly bridging the gap between fine art and popular culture, Erizku was catapulted to widespread fame in early 2017 for his pregnancy portraits of Beyoncé, which quickly became Instagram’s most popular post of all time. This was perhaps the crowning moment of Erizku’s quick rise in the art world ever since his exhibition debut in 2011 when his work was selected for the critically acclaimed exhibition Art² alongside the likes of Richard Prince and Roy Lichtenstein at the FLAG Foundation in New York. The photograph exhibited, which depicted his sister posing as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, helped him land representation by a New York gallery when he was only 24.

    Erizku’s incisive approach to subverting the history of art also informs Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a billion. With a sly nod to Donald Judd’s stacks and 1960s minimalism, Erizku in has aligned seven basketball rims with a miniature basketball resting atop the highest basket. As Erizku recalled in a 2014 interview with Paul Laster in Whitehot Magazine, “I thought it would be interesting to replace the stacked boxes with basketball hoops, a reference to David Hammons, and also signifiers of my life in New York City.” Born in 1988 in Ethiopia, Erizku grew up in South Bronx, New York and studied art at Cooper Union, and later at Yale University. As Erizku continues to explain, “The piece operates as a striking metaphor, embodying the anxieties inherent to life as a young contemporary artist by aligning basketball with the practice of making art—both are games, shaped half by talent and half by luck. If you ask me, you have more to chew on when you look at those stacked hoops than those metal boxes.”

    Music and contemporary culture plays a critical role in Erizku’s work. The stacked hoops, as he recalled, were “highly influenced by Jay Z’s ‘Picasso Baby,’ specifically the line, ‘Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a trillion.’ It’s a metaphor; people who understand hip-hop know what that means.” Embodying the hopes and economic plight of his generation, the debut of this series in the exhibition The Only Way is Up in 2014 was accompanied by a hip-hop mixtape Erizku created in collaboration with DJ Kitty Cash: “Music is universal and I wanted to create a musical definition of my work that spoke to my generation about the issues and ideas my work represents."


Oh, what a feeling, fuck it, I want a Billion

mixed media with seven regulation size basketball rims and Spalding NBA basketball
148 1/8 x 18 7/8 x 24 3/8 in. (376 x 48 x 62 cm.)
Executed in 2018, this work is an edition of 1 plus 1 artist's proof.

Estimate On Request


New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019