Deana Lawson - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • "What I’m trying to do is create this metanarrative that’s about family, but also going across time and space, using the legends and lore of the marvelous part of Africa in my work—to reactivate that." —Deana Lawson

    While borrowing elements of documentary photography and portraiture, Deana Lawson’s images are carefully crafted vignettes informed by her travels throughout the African diaspora. Her photographs are as much about the individuals represented as they are about the manifestation of black history and culture within the body and domestic realms. From the satin and lace ring pillow, to the family photos and play of textile patterns, every detail of Ring Bearer is full of intention and meaning.


    Lawson’s work was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Photography exhibition in 2011 and the Whitney Biennial in 2017. In 2020, she became the first photographer to receive the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize. The accompanying exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York is on view through 11 October 2021. Lawson’s first museum survey will open at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston on 4 November 2021. 


    Installation Image, Whitney Biennial, 2017
    • Provenance

      Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

    • Artist Biography

      Deana Lawson

      American • 1979

      Deana Lawson’s strikingly intimate photographs examine themes of family, cultural legacy, sexuality, spirituality and employ black aesthetics as the cornerstone of her distinctive oeuvre. Her works draw upon visual traditions such as formal portraiture, social documentary, and personal family albums, expertly recording social narratives of African American day-to-day life in contemporary America.

      Lawson’s subjects are often strangers she meets in public spaces, yet she refers to them as “her family”. She arranges her models in domestic settings, paying particular attention to lighting and pose, which the artist utilizes to transform and intensify these intimate spaces. Lawson painstakingly arranges her subjects – a young man holding up a West Side symbol, a mother cradling her crying child, and an elderly woman she met at a corner store with a prosthetic foot – and her environments – lace curtains, plastic couch covers, and peeling wallpaper. She embraces her models’ bodies, their lives, and their collective histories, explaining: “they are displaced kings and queens of the diaspora. There’s something beautiful and powerful that hasn’t been taken away”. 

      Lawson was the recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, affording her the opportunity to practice photography on an international scale. Recently, her large-scale work, Ring Bearer, 2016, was exhibited at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and earlier this year the artist had her first solo show with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York.

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Ring Bearer

Inkjet print.
42 1/2 x 53 3/4 in. (108 x 136.5 cm)
Overall 44 x 55 1/4 in. (111.8 x 140.3 cm)

Signed in ink with printed title, date and number 2/4 on a gallery label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $30,240

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243


New York Auction 7 October 2021