Henry Taylor - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “He ain’t no cop, he protects Black Rock!!”
    —Henry Taylor

    Dakar, Senegal #3 belongs to a series of works Henry Taylor completed while traveling in Senegal, which work together as a collage of the cultural community the artist immersed himself in. In 2019, the same year of his participation in the Venice Biennale, Taylor made the trip to visit his friend, the artist Kehinde Wiley, at the latter’s newly established residency in Dakar, called Black Rock. As the reverse of the present work indicates, the sitter for Dakar, Senegal #3 is a security guard hired for Wiley’s residency: “He ain’t no cop, he protects Black Rock!!” Taylor writes above his signature. This distinction between the pejorative “cop” and a protector of “Black Rock” is essential to understanding Dakar, Senegal #3 in the context of Taylor’s work at large.


    By underlining the “Black” in Black Rock, Taylor emphasizes that his sitter is hired to protect Black people; particularly, the artists who have come to work at Wiley’s residency, a wellspring of creativity and collaboration. This word choice distinguishes the guard from the police, who, though working under the motto protect and serve in the United States, have a history of racialized violence against Black people.i Taylor responds to the recurring theme of police brutality across his oeuvre, including two paintings, Homage to a Brother, 2007, and THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!, 2017, which honor, mourn and process the outrage of young Black men killed by police.ii The artist’s older brother, who was a member of the Black Panthers, further instilled an attunement to political activism in Taylor’s practice.iii


    David Hockney, Ken Bradford. London. 20th December 1999 from 12 Portraits after Ingres in a Uniform Style, 1999. Image: Richard Schmidt, Artwork: © David Hockney

    Dakar, Senegal #3 is an expressive portrait of a security guard dressed in his work uniform, his features rendered inscrutable with his baseball cap, sunglasses, and pursed lips. Taylor’s quick brushstrokes render the angles of the man’s shoulders and elbows in all their jaunty posturing. It seems as if the guard, who is seated in white space, is leaning against a table. He appears perched on an invisible seat, ready to stand up to answer the call of duty.


    Known for his abrupt yet attentive figural style, Taylor shares that a sense of speed is important to communicate the easeful, yet meaningful interpersonal relationships behind his portraits.iv The speed embodied in Taylor’s energetic application of paint adds to our understanding of Dakar, Senegal #3 as an empathetic work, done in real-time, that captures both the likeness and the personality of the security guard. Dashes of brown and black on the white ground read like color tests, the artist’s brief check-ins with the painterly process as he continues on his intuitive way.

    “This is painting that goes way beyond the brute fact of a body. Other people look; Taylor sees.”
    —Zadie Smith
    Taylor’s quick work couples with his constant observation of the world around him.v This leads the artist to subjects who often inhabit social margins—he sees people that others do not always see. In the case of Dakar, Senegal #3, Taylor centers the security guard, presumably at the edge of a gathering at Black Rock. The white background of the primed canvas places the viewer’s complete attention on the guard; we study him, as if we are going to paint him ourselves. We see his fingernails, peach and pale blue; the shadow of a mustache on his upper lip. This is Taylor’s gift as an artist. As Ken Johnson wrote, he is “a Social Realist in the best sense… he paints roughly the rough world of his own experience, but he does so with a rare spirit of generosity and love.”vi


    Taylor at the Venice Biennale, 2019.



    Leah Wang, “New data: Police use of force rising for Black, female, and older people; racial bias persists,” Prison Policy Initiative, Dec. 22, 2022, online.

    ii Terence Trouillot, “Henry Taylor Paints His People,” frieze, Jan. 5, 2023, online.

    iii Ibid.

    iv Henry Taylor, quoted in “Henry Taylor with Laura Hoptman,” Brooklyn Rail, Oct. 2019, online.


    vi Ken Johnson, “A Visual Equivalent of the Blues, in Warm Shades,” The New York Times, Feb. 2, 2012, online.

    • Provenance

      Blum & Poe, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Blum & Poe, Henry Taylor: NIECE COUSIN KIN LOOK HOW LONG IT'S BEEN, September 24–December 21, 2019


Dakar, Senegal #3

signed, inscribed and dated ““He aint No Cop, he protects Black Rock.” Henry Taylor 2019 Senegal, Dakar” on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
47 1/8 x 35 3/8 in. (119.7 x 89.9 cm)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $584,200

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2023