Michaela Yearwood-Dan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • In a world where figurative art dominates, Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s colossal megacosms of chromatic abstraction have an unmistakable ambience, exuding a kind of chaotic meditation, and places her at the head of the emerging group of Black abstractionists that include Rachel Jones and Torkwase Dyson, positioning her as one of the world’s most exciting young painters. Her work is deeply personal, operating as an open-book journal for her layered identities. Yet these individualities do not conform to expectations of race or sexuality, instead transcending them to redefine the notions of collective identity and history. Incorporating an array of cultural signifiers, she borrows freely from blackness - flora, healing techniques, clothes and carnival culture in the production of her majestic compositions. 

    “My practice is routed in self historicisation, primarily executed through large scale abstract painting and, more recently, ceramics. The work I make explores a plethora of themes ranging from political dissection to personal narrative accounts with consistent references to botany and poetry.”
    — Michaela Yearwood-Dan

    Painting Poetry with Pigment



    Installation view of the present lot at Zurich, Galerie Maria Berheim,
    Ghost Painterly Abstraction, 9 September - 23 October 2021


    Floral images emerge and coalesce within What's the Use in Yearning, where forms reimagine themselves infinite before falling away to be replaced by alternate constructions. Pigment unravels across two canvasses, a Gaian undulation that recalls the abstracted arcadia of Claude Monet’s later works. An endless alchemist, the painting marks a change of direction in the artist’s practice as figuration falls away almost completely to be replaced with a mastery over paint. ‘I find versatility the most exciting thing’, she declares, ‘I’m forever finding new ways to use paints and finding love for new colours and mediums and ways to experiment with using them. In recent years I’ve become more confident in my use of colour and bold marks.’i



    Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1919
    Collection of the Albertina Museum, Vienna


    These works are produced meticulously with Yearwood-Dan starting at the centre of the canvas, buttering layers of oil paint using a palette knife, then working outworks to create spatial ambiguity that invites us to step into the canvas – a process of transportation allowing for ecstatic elevation.



    Opulence and Awareness


    The present lot is bestowed with a level of affluence with its embellishment of Swarovski crystals, a process that the artist calls ‘accesorisation’ii. This impulse to adorn is rooted in her South London upbringing and her exposure to gold-laden religious iconography whilst being educated at a Catholic school. However, the practice of accessorising with jewels or gold is not inherent to Christianity alone, but also seen in other regions of the world within Buddhism or Muslim cultures, as means to elevate the work to a higher dimension that reaches closer to their deities. As such, Yearwood-Dan’s intentional choice of embellishing her works anchors her oeuvre within a greater context of art history that began with religious iconography.



    Detail of the present lot


    Indeed, Yearwood-Dan’s paintings are almost Renaissance-like in their opulence, while her swathes of nuanced lines and sumptuous colour evoke shades of Botticelli. Yet it would be an encounter with another Black painter hailing from London, Chris Ofili, that would spark her genesis as an artist. ‘Everyone talks about representation, but there are some moments of representation that do shake you to the core, and for me, it was discovering Chris Ofili at age 16 or 17’, she explains i. Yearwood-Dan’s productions find undoubtable kinship with Ofili, with both using their distinct practices as a means of self-determination.



    Collector’s Digest


    In October 2022, the artist’s auction record was set when Coping Mechanisms (2021) sold for £239,400 at Phillips London.


    Yearwood-Dan has been celebrated with several solo exhibitions between New York and London. This year, Tiwani Contemporary celebrated the artist with a solo exhibition, The Sweetest Taboo, following their 2019 show, After Euphoria.


    In 2021, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery and in 2019 at The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation. Most recently, Yearwood-Dan created a site-specific installation, Let Me Hold You for Queercirle, a dedicated safe space for LGBTQ+ communities to gather; earlier this year Yearwood-Dan was featured in the third annual Great Women Artists Residency at Palazzo Monti.


    Recent exhibitions include Laced, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (group - 2021); Summer exhibition, Royal Academy, London, UK (group- 2021); Be Gentle With Me, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (solo - 2021); Ancient Deities, Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (group - 2020); Clay TM, TJ Boulting, London, UK (group - 2020); The Green Fuse, Frestonian Gallery, London, UK (group -2020); No Time Like the Present, Public Gallery, London, UK, (group - 2020); Begin Again, Guts Gallery, London, UK, (group - 2020); After Euphoria, Tiwani Contemporary, London, UK (solo - 2019) and One English Pound, Sarabande, The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation (solo - 2019).


    Yearwood-Dan’s works are held in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, and Columbus Museum of Art.



    i Michaela Yearwod-Dan, quoted in ‘Our Featured Artist: Michaela Yearwood-Dan’, Windsor & Newton, online

    ii Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Tess Thackara, ‘Beyond Their Lavish Aesthetic, Michaela Yearwood-Dan's Paintings Make You Feel’, Cultured, 8 December 2021, online

    • Provenance

      Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zürich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Zürich, Galerie Maria Berheim, Images: Ghost Painterly Abstraction, 9 September - 23 October 2021


What's the Use in Yearning

signed, titled and dated '"What the use in yearning" 2021 M Yearwood-Dan' on the reverse of the right panel
acrylic, oil and Swarovski crystals on canvas, diptych
each canvas 200 x 150 cm. (78 3/4 x 59 in.)
overall 200 x 300 cm. (78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in.)

Executed in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

HK$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for HK$3,024,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022