Glenn Ligon - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips
  • “My job is not to produce answers.
    My job is to produce good questions”
    —Glenn Ligon

    Unearthing a dialogue between the 19th century and our present, Narratives engages the essential themes of Glenn Ligon's practice, examining issues of race, representation, and agency. The nine photo-etchings in this series focus on the descriptive powers of the written word. Text, rather than image, comprises the composition. The sepia-toned chine-collé and traditional typescript meticulously recreate the aesthetic of historical slave narratives. A genre invented to bolster the success of abolitionists, these popular stories were primarily inaccessible to enslaved people, many of whom were illiterate. While such documents were persuasive in their anti-slavery message, they relied on sensationalism and remained of questionable authenticity. 


    Reckoning with this legacy, Ligon composes a new version of such title pages, combining autobiographical details with quotations from black literary figures, such as Derek Walcott and Bell Hooks. The Life and Uncommon Sufferings of Glenn Ligon and other titles in the series are simultaneously satirical and open-ended, raising questions about linguistically codified expressions of black suffering throughout time. Impersonal literary dictation is undercut with personal intimacies, such as details from childhood and his sexuality, elaborating the tenuous boundary between truth and fiction. Bringing this historic genre from the archive to the gallery, Ligon re-frames the slave narrative to question authorship, authority, and personal memories underpinning a nation's stories.

    • Literature

      Ars Publicata, Glenn Ligon, 1993.01 [1-9]



The complete set of nine etchings, on Chine collé to Arches paper, with full margins.
all approx. I. 21 1/2 x 15 1/2 in. (54.6 x 39.4 cm)
all S. 28 x 21 1/4 in. (71.1 x 54 cm)

All signed, dated and numbered 37/45 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), co-published by the artist and Max Protetch Gallery, New York, all unframed.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $20,320

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212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023