Deborah Roberts - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips
  • "As Black women, we start being strong and independent at an early age. And maybe that gets misconstrued as not being innocent. It’s something that divides us from other little girls."
    —Deborah Roberts

    Texas-based artist Deborah Roberts combines found images, drawing and painting to create her idiosyncratic collages that explore notions of beauty, identity and race. Finally receiving overdue critical attention after a 30-year-long career, Roberts currently has her first institutional solo show at The Contemporary Austin on view through August 2021. In her work, Roberts analyzes the way art history and fashion magazines shape the development of young Black girls’ self-image, despite their own frequent exclusion from society’s typical definition of beauty.


    Included in her first solo show at Fort Gansevoort, New York, Serenade, 2017, depicts a young girl with features compiled of collaged clippings of various faces. In her early work, Roberts made these collaged faces using her own childhood photos, but now she sources images by “looking for this type of innocence that has not been touched by pop culture but maybe has been touched by tragedy.”i In her multi-layered approach to her portraits, Roberts emphasizes the uniqueness of Black identity and expands the portrayal of beauty.


    The girl in this work, or “ingenue”—the name of the Fort Gansevoort exhibition—dons a tulle headdress as she politely clasps her hands in front of her body, presumably with the intent to serenade someone. Through these nuanced depictions of young Black girls, Roberts aims to expand the definition of beauty that populates society’s visual culture.


    i Deborah Roberts quoted in, Robin Pogrebin, “A Dream Deferred, for Now,” The New York Times, April 14, 2020, online

    • Provenance

      Fort Gansevoort, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Fort Gansevoort, Deborah Roberts: in-gé-nue, November 9–December 23, 2017

Property from a Private Collection, New York



signed and dated "Deborah Roberts 2017" on the reverse
mixed media on paper
30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.9 cm)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $119,700

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250


20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021