Christina Quarles - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short

    A superb example from an artist rare to auction, Placed exemplifies Christina Quarles’s fresh painterly approach to universal themes of identity and sexuality, which has earned her a reputation as one of the most innovative voices of her generation. In her launch to widespread acclaim over the last three years, the painter has enjoyed international museum attention, and her unique vision will be celebrated in a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago next year. This global recognition—virtually unprecedented for an artist only 35 years old—has translated into her status as one of the most sought-after painters among her contemporaries.
  • Spotlight

    A Multiplicity of Identities    

    In Placed, Quarles’s own perspectives on identity can be read in the multiplicity of tones used to render her subjects. “As a Queer, cis-woman who is Black but is often mistaken as white, I engage with the world from a position that is multiply situated,”  the artist has elucidated.[i] The frontal figure is depicted with a pale peach left leg and a navy right one, while her body and the rear lover’s left arm and right fingers are filled with iridescent silver contoured by lavender, cerulean, and orange.  Moreover, the ambiguity of both the race and gender of the upper figure challenges the tradition of heteronormativity that has typically presented in art historical portrayals of love.


    "In my development as an artist it was always at the forefront of my mind to engage with ambiguity"  Christina Quarles

    It’s All in the Details

    Though the identities of the bodies in Placed are for the most part ambiguous and unfixed, select aspects are characterized by their contrasting clarity. The most salient features are the subjects’ hands and feet, details of much significance to the artist and depicted in the meticulous exactitude used in life drawing. “For a long time I worked through this idea of the outermost edge of your self being represented through the hands and the feet,” Quarles illuminated. “I think of them as the outermost extremities, where you interact with the world.”[ii]

    Private Desires and Public Identities

    Confronting preconceived notions of identity and sexuality, Quarles’s captivating, intertwining bodies lovingly interact and embrace—and in the case of Placed, kiss—across a brilliant wave of color. By engaging with the art historical canon, the painter has captured in Placed a portrait of the past and the future, of both the imposing rigidity of social constructions of identity and the collapse of these implied restrictions when we join together. As critic David Pagel articulately expressed, her paintings are “a sustained meditation on the complex ways our private desires and public identities interact with each other to shape our understanding of who we are as individuals, as communities, as a people and as a species.”[iii]  
    Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1907-1908. Oesterreichische Galerie im Belvedere, Vienna, Photo Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
    Bacon and Quarles: A Dialogue

    Quarles’s figures, twisting and turning across a canvas articulated by moments of impasto, are perhaps most immediately redolent of Francis Bacon’s gestural contorting subjects. Similarly to Bacon’s pictures, Placed captures an almost blurred effect due to the movement of the two lovers; the lower figure’s head is shown gliding upwards to meet the kiss planted on her by the upper one. Evocative of the Italian Futurists’ depictions of bustling motion, Bacon and Quarles's renderings have explored painting’s ability to portray activity and gesture.

    [i] Christina Quarles, “Tertiary Colors,” Flaunt Magazine, April 6, 2019, online.
    [ii] Christina Quarles, quoted in Hettie Judah, “Christina Quarles Paints the Outermost Edges of the Self,” GARAGE Magazine, October 27, 2019, online.
    [iii] David Pagel, “Review: Christina Quarles’ paintings blur boundaries and find freedom in the flesh,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2019, online
        Francis Bacon, Two Figures, 1953. Private Collection, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Francis Bacon / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London
  • Cut from the Archives

    • Provenance

      David Castillo Gallery, Miami
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Miami, David Castillo Gallery, No burden as heavy, June 14 - August 31, 2017

    • Artist Biography

      Christina Quarles

      As a queer woman born to a black father and a white mother, Christina Quarles has developed a worldview defined by multiplicity. Often misrepresented as a white woman in life, Quarles creates work that confronts ideas of race, gender, and queerness. The highly expressive human forms of Quarles’s paintings hover between figuration and abstraction, paradoxically occupying both spaces at once. By incorporating the contradictions of identity into her painting, Quarles has developed an art form defined by energized formal inventiveness and semi-pictorial abstraction that has been likened to the early work of Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning, breathing new life into the historical legacies of their work.  

      Quarles was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1985 and was raised in Los Angeles, California. She completed her BA at Hampshire College in 2007 and earned her MFA at Yale University in 2016. Today, Quarles lives and works in Los Angeles with her wife.  

      View More Works



signed, titled and dated "Christina Quarles 2017 "PLACED"" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
49 7/8 x 42 in. (126.7 x 106.7 cm)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

$70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $400,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020