Ellen Gallagher - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Blubber, March 10 - April 14, 2001
    Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Ellen Gallagher, October 17 - December 30, 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ellen Gallagher’s subtly intricate artworks straddle the delicate line between figuration and abstraction. Her ethereal compositions are often likened to the elegant, austere works of Agnes Martin, who the artist cites as a primary source of inspiration. Yet when examined closely, Gallagher’s canvases reveal richly patterned surfaces, infused with a unique vocabulary of signs and symbols. The product of a father whose heritage was from Cape Verde, Africa and a Caucasian, Irish Catholic mother, Gallagher employs a cosmology of personal symbols throughout her oeuvre as a means of exploring larger themes like race and gender.

    Executed in 2001, Counterfit draws upon this visual vocabulary and, in doing so, unveils the complex historical development of racial identity in America. In this work, repeated, ovular forms scattered across the composition suggest lips or vulvas, while a small, wide-eyed brown figure, perhaps resting atop a tree trunk, sticks its pink tongue out at the viewer. These motifs, drawn from the canon of racist, sexualized caricatures such as blackface and buffoonery, are saturated with subtle references to black history transformed by the artist’s hand.

    The process of transformation is central to Gallagher’s practice, rubbing, erasing, smudging, stitching and collaging materials until they become unidentifiable from their original states. This painstaking process mimics the development of racial and gender norms that Gallagher seeks to investigate in her works – constantly morphing, repeating, being digested and transformed. Both in content and in the laborious process by which it was created, Counterfit exquisitely illustrates Gallagher’s enduring exploration into what it means to be a bi-racial, female artist working at the turn of the twenty-first century in America.



oil, ink and paper on linen
72 x 84 in. (182.9 x 213.4 cm.)
Executed in 2001.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $175,000

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 14 November 2018