Kara Walker - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Brent Sikkema, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in September 2004

  • Exhibited

    New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; Berlin, KW Institute for Contemporary Art; Rome, MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Into Me/Out of Me, June 25, 2006 - September 30, 2007

  • Catalogue Essay

    Kara Walker’s Untitled work is a powerful example of the artist’s critical interpretation of societal stereotypes, explored through the simple art form of cut paper. Walker is unique in her ability to address the power struggles of race, gender and sexuality through an innocent, childlike medium. The present lot’s three figures, which are composed of two white and one gray silhouettes collaged against a pitch black background, are erected in a monumental scale, with the entire composition measuring over seven feet tall and ten feet wide. The two large white female figures flank the middle male, towering over him. As silhouettes, these figures are stripped of any sort of identity, yet their superior stance evokes a sense of power over the man who seems to be cowering beneath them. The scene exemplifies the artist’s series of works that illustrate slavery, presenting storylines in an absurdly simplified manner. These flat, white caricatures represent female slave masters, violently approaching the black slave victim in the center. By reducing the figures to simple shapes and shades of black and white, the artist plays upon the notion that stereotypes exist on both sides of the racial divide. “The silhouette says a lot with very little information,” she says, “but that’s also what the stereotype does.” (Kara Walker, quoted in a conversation with Lisa Dorin, Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2013, online)

    Alongside masterpieces by other artists concerned with societal generalizations and longstanding issues of identity, this specific Untitled work was included in the 2006 exhibition Into Me/Out of Me at MoMA P.S. 1. Within this context of works by Marina Abramović, Chris Burden, Bruce Nauman, and others, the work stands out as a powerful example of how artists take examples from their own personal histories and illustrate them to make broader statements. In its sheer size, this work confronts the viewer with the question of whether or not these issues have become completely extinct, attempting the answer that they are still very much present in the fabric of our lives. Walker herself has called this personal conflict her “ever-present, never-ending war with race.” (Kara Walker, quoted in a conversation with Lisa Dorin, Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2013, online)

  • 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.

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signed and dated "Kara Walker 2004" on the reverse
cut paper on canvas
86 x 128 in. (218.4 x 325.1 cm.)
Executed in 2004.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $225,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2016