Kara Walker - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 16, 2014 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 1998

  • Exhibited

    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, The Cities Collect, September 23, 2000 - January 7, 2001

  • Catalogue Essay

    One of the most prominent and controversial artists today, Kara Walker emerged on the international scene with several solo and group exhibitions in the mid-1990s, when this present example was first executed. Utilizing cut-paper silhouettes produced on a life-sized scale in a reduced color palette, typically black and white shapes against a white background, Walker expands on a popular eighteenth and nineteenth century parlor game in which genteel ladies decorated their boudoirs with similar silhouette figures. Connected to the low arts, this medium was also associated with caricature and with the pseudoscience of physiognomy (a belief that facial features provide insight into a range of psychological and moral characteristics). Walker turns this decorative art form into a powerful medium by which she can address the repressive perversions of antebellum America.

    The lurid scene depicted here involving two decapitated bodies kneeling in a declaration of piety or forgiveness, their respective heads, and pools of blood is both incredibly resolved and simultaneously impossible to fully comprehend. With her figures combining sublime beauty in their effervescent silhouettes and disturbing content, the scene created by Walker describes a world full of mischief, violence, scatology and sensuality. The lady’s head gazes up underneath the dress of her own truncated body in an expression of seeming astonishment, while the gentleman’s eyes still seem transfixed by her elevated body even as his own clasped hands and kneeling form seemingly beg for redemption.

    Walker has created a body of work that has sparked numerous reactions ranging from critical acclaim to outrage for its startling imagery and unflinching portrayal of often painful and disturbing subject matter. Choosing bizarre yet intriguing, and often grotesque, images rooted in stereotypes, Walker comments on the system of oppression and subjugation in antebellum America and its legacy in the American consciousness.

  • Artist Biography

    Kara Walker

    American • 1969

    Kara Walker sugarcoats nothing. Her masterpiece public art commission, A Subtlety, 2014, was a 35-foot high racial confrontation of artifact, mythology and American history in the form of a sphinx packed from 80-tonnes of Domino white sugar crystals. Walker's practice first caught audiences with her haunting paper cutout silhouettes retelling the injustices of slavery and the foundations of American capitalist culture.

    Walker's immense talent matched by her cunning commentary has made her one of the most important contemporary artists today, having enjoyed major exhibitions at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum of Art, New York in addition to permanent placements within the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Art Institute Chicago. Her auction market is strong for a mid-career artist, with works reaching more than $300,000.

    View More Works



cut paper, adhesive
24 x 110 in. (61 x 279.4 cm.)
In addition to the original cutout, this work is accompanied by 1 template in white and 1 exhibition copy.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $100,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Day Sale
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 16 May 2014 11am