Michaela Yearwood-Dan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I think people like to overcomplicate the idea of Fine Art and trivialise the existence of pop culture – as if it [pop culture] isn’t freely borrowing from a multitude of intellectual cultural histories to keep itself sustained. For instance, the inclusion of gold leaf, gold paint, and glitter in some of my recent work can be seen to refer to renaissance fine art paintings but in the same vein, I float between them representing that and representing the gold costume jewellery I’ve worn for years.”
    —Michaela Yearwood-Dan

    Bursts of swirling colour, interspersed with botanical motifs and textual references to popular culture are typical of London-based artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan. In works like The Summit of Beauty and Love, paint billows across canvases as she uses broad, gestural strokes to create expressive compositions that are full of vital energy. Graduating from her BFA at the University of Brighton in 2016, Yearwood-Dan decided to move away from figurative work to immerse herself in the world of textural and abstract art. Surrounded by a creative family that pursued carpentry, jewellery making, textiles and botany, Yearwood-Dan expands her fine arts practice to incorporate non-traditional subject matter as inspiration.i

    As a black, queer woman, she seeks to imbue her works with an intersectional approach to identity, sex-positivity, and feminism in non-literal sense: ‘I’m not giving you any more body – more figurative body – to make comments on. Instead, I will hone my mind, my humour, and my intellect. People can take it or leave it. And people have been taking it, which is quite nice!’.ii


    [Left] François Boucher, The Triumph of Venus, 1740, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Image: Cecilia Heisser / Nationalmuseum
    [Right] Detail of the present work


    The Summit of Beauty and Love was executed in 2020 for a group show exhibition at Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh. Titled Ancient Deities, the show aimed to highlight the relevance of gods, goddesses and demons in contemporary art and culture. The present work is inspired by Venus, Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility – who Yearwood-Dan describes on her Instagram as ‘totes my kinda lady’.iii This colloquial interaction with her work is what makes Yearwood-Dan such a refreshing voice in the contemporary art scene. She engages with classical academic subject matter in a manner that ‘pokes fun at the elitism within the artworld’.vi Indeed, the title of the work is a lyric taken from the song Venus, first released by Shocking Blue in 1969 and made famous by Bananarama in 1986.


    Bananarama, Venus, 1986 


    The classical influence of Yearwood-Dan’s formal artistic training is still visible in her work. The Summit of Beauty and Love is a voracious fusion of blues, pinks, purples and golds, in rolling plumes that envelope the canvas. These warm washes of colour are reminiscent of Rococo works by French artists such as Jean Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher. In Boucher’s The Triumph of Venus, for example, we see Venus honoured in a composition filled with sumptuous dynamism – the frothy sea, curved nude bodies and swell of striped fabric – executed in a similar pastel palette.

    Yearwood-Dan is not afraid to incorporate popular culture within her works. Textural inscriptions are commonplace in her canvases and can reference anything from Dizzee Rascall and internet memes to film and literary quotes.v In the present work we see the inscription ‘it isn’t soft like the poets say it has teeth which bite and the wounds never close’ – a reference about love from The Body by Stephen King. Whilst the visual appearances of her canvases sing with colourful exultation, her inscriptions engender more nuanced meanings. In the case of The Summit of Beauty and Love we are reminded that love does not always feel like a scene from a Fragonard painting, it can be difficult and painful.


    From Bananarama to Stephen King, The Summit of Beauty and Love is packed with references to goddesses, love and beauty. Whilst celebrating divine femininity, Yearwood-Dan is keen to remind us that women are frequently perceived based on their beauty and sexual appeal. The present work represents an investigation into the position of Venus in the contemporary world – how her legacy is now interpreted – and stands as a wonderful example of the artist’s non-figurative investigations of feminism and identity. In the artist’s own, characteristically straightforward terms: ‘Everything is feminine. The world exists because of the feminine. Stop insulting women for being who they are. We deal with enough.’vi


    Collector’s Digest

    • Michaela Yearwood-Dan has experienced remarkable success since finishing her BFA in 2016. She has held solo exhibitions in London and New York, as well as in group exhibitions at The Royal Academy of Arts, London; Gagosian, London; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; and Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Morocco.

    • She has completed several residencies, including at The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation in 2019 and as a featured artist in the third annual Great Women Artists Residency at Palazzo Monti in 2021.

    • 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 Laura Franchetti and Fred Shan, ‘in Conversation with Michaela Yearwood-Dan’, Immediations, no. 18, 2021, online.

    ii Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Laura Franchetti and Fred Shan, ‘in Conversation with Michaela Yearwood-Dan’, Immediations, no. 18, 2021, online.

    iii Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Instagram, 28 August, 2020, online.

    iv Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Laura Franchetti and Fred Shan, ‘in Conversation with Michaela Yearwood-Dan’, Immediations, no. 18, 2021, online.

    ​​​​​v Vanessa murrell, ‘Michaela Yearwood-Dan’, Dateagle Art, 24 August, 2018, online.

    vi Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Eloise Hendy, 'Artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan on finding joy through art and reclaiming beauty', The Glossary, 9 March, 2023, online.

    • Provenance

      Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Edinburgh, Arusha Gallery, Ancient Deities, 10 September – 18 October 2020

    • Literature

      Emily Tobin, ‘Artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan in her studio’, House & Garden, 18 November 2020 (illustrated in the artist’s studio; online)
      Andrea Sacal, ‘Ten minutes with artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, as she launches her first US solo exhibition, ‘Be Gentle with Me’’, 10 Magazine, 27 August 2021 (illustrated; online)

Property of an Important Private Collection


The Summit of Beauty and Love

signed and dated ''The Summit of Beauty and Love' Michaela Yearwood-Dan 2020' on the reverse
oil on canvas
170 x 120 cm (66 7/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡♠

Sold for £228,600

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 October 2023