Belkis Ayón - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 18, 2023 | Phillips
  • Belkis Ayón was an Afro-Latina printmaker and professor born in Havana, Cuba in 1967. Ayón made significant contributions to the field of contemporary printmaking, leaving behind a prolific body of work following her tragic death at the age of thirty-two. She studied engraving at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana (ISA), where she was honored with national awards, held her first solo show, and received invitations to participate in more than thirty group exhibitions. Additionally, Ayón appears to have been involved with Albur, a student run magazine supported by artists of the Cuban vanguard, based on modified versions of her prints that were presumably intended to be magazine covers, but were ultimately not published by the magazine.


    Belkis Ayón at Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, California, 1998. Image: Darrel Couturier. Courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate

    Ayón is commemorated for her mastery of collography, an extension of the relief printmaking process, in which she assembled a variety of materials such as sandpaper, vegetable peelings, and hundreds of pieces of soft paper on a cardboard sheet in a collage-like manner to produce a composition. The image was then inked and run through a hand-cranked printer, enabling Ayón to achieve a range of tones, textures, and forms. The artist developed the unusual and labor-intensive printmaking technique “to create a unique [visual] language rich in nuances and textures that are hard to obtain through any other medium.”i

    "Above all, I am interested in questioning human nature – that fleeting feeling, spirituality, by which my art can be appreciated by a universal public."
    —Belkis Ayón

    Ayón dedicated her life’s work to the exploration and depiction of the mysterious iconography of Abakuá, a secret, hermetic Afro-Cuban brotherhood brought to Cuba in the nineteenth century by enslaved men from Nigeria. The foundational myth of the men-only society is based on a woman’s perceived act of betrayal. Princess Sikán accidentally discovered Tanze, a sacred fish which promised to impart power upon those who heard its voice. Sikán brought the fish to her father, who swore her to silence, but she shared the secret with her fiancé, a prince of an enemy nation. Sikán was condemned to death and with her, Tanze the fish died. The Myth of Sikán determined that only men could be initiated into the religious society and consequently, Ayón renders her female characters without mouths to represent the absence of women in the Abakuá religion.

    "They said it was a secret society, only for men, and that aroused my interest."
    —Belkis Ayón

    Throughout Ayón’s exploration of Abakuá, she focused on Sikán’s experience and perspective since she viewed her as the principal character, the mother of every Abakuá, the great sacrificed initiator.”ii Moreover, Ayón considered Sikán her alter ego and a reflection of herself as well as other women marginalized by their surrounding masculine societies. While the Abakuá religion has a strong oral tradition of sharing their legends, there is little visual representation. Therefore, Ayón was provided with the opportunity to create her own imagery, centered around a key female figure in a male dominated world. Her work raised questions surrounding power, control, censorship, violence, and freedom, concerns that were likely present in Ayon’s life as a Black Cuban female artist at the end of the 20th century.



    i Museo Reina Sofía. “Belkis Ayón: Collographs.” 17 November 2021 – 18 April 2022.
    ii Belkis Ayón quoted by Sam Jones. “On show at last: the Myths and mysteries of Belkis Ayón, a giant of Cuban art.” The Guardian. November 20, 2021.

    • Literature

      Katia Ayón and Cristina Vives 98.11


Sin Titulo, from Contemporary Art from Cuba: Irony and Survival on the Utopian Island (A. & V. 98.11)

Collagraph, on Rives BFK paper, with full margins.
I. 21 3/4 x 21 1/4 in. (55.2 x 54 cm)
S. 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.6 x 56.5 cm)

Signed, dated and numbered 44/45 in pencil (there were also some artist's proofs), published by Segura Publishing Company, Tempe and Armstrong-Prior Inc. Phoenix, unframed.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $15,240

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 18 - 20 April 2023