Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “You know how we Black people dress! You know how we want to stand out as people. We dress in a statement way. We want to look so powerful! So I add all those kinds of things. Things you see when you walk into a Black neighborhood. Things that make us unique.” — Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

    African artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe is best known for powerful and provocative portraits of black subjects which advocate for the standing of black communities in America. Bathed in fields of vivid colour, Quaicoe’s portraits force viewers to meet their subjects’ confident and direct stares.


    Born and raised in Ghana, Quaicoe was the fourth of six children. He became fascinated by the detailed hand-painted movie posters in cinemas, which eventually led him to become a painter. Searching for his own voice and artistic style after graduating from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in 2018, Quaicoe became struck by Old Master paintings and how they exclusively portrayed powerful Caucasian figures. Black individuals appeared rarely, and only in minor and degrading roles such as fawning servants (see for example Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863)).



    Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863
    Collection Musee d'Orsay, Paris


    Quaicoe’s calling to rewrite history manifests itself in beautiful renderings of acquaintances, some met on the street or on social media. These convey the lesser-known narratives of ‘blackness’ – the stories of individuals and how they would like to be seen by not only art viewers, but by the world. Recalling the first time he was confronted by racial injustice and stereotyping in America, Quaicoe singled out ‘the gaze and the staring’. His paintings capture and reproduce the same unequivocating stares, his subjects stopping the viewer in their tracks with their fearless, penetrating gaze. The language of colour is also an important element in Quaicoe’s oeuvre, and is used to represent a person’s character and state of mind.



    The artist in his studio

    “I love super bright colours […] Yellow, bright green, orange, pink… they are colours that make me feel alive” — Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe


    Larger than life, Wilde Wilde West’s protagonist occupies almost the entire canvas. Subverting the stereotype of the all-American cowboy, Wilde Wilde West’s ebony black protagonist sports a lurid fuschia striped turtleneck jumper and matching felt cowboy hat. The brilliant orange background, rendered in a delicately textured impasto, recalls the timeless luminosity of the ‘Golden Phase’ works by Viennese painter Gustav Klimt.


    Wilde Wilde West neatly skewers the fictions behind all-American personalities such as Jackson Pollock, whose near-mythical origins as a working-class ‘cowboy’ were weaponised during the Cold War and led directly to the funding and promotion of Abstract Expressionism internationally as a fundamentally American, anti-Communist movement. Quaicoe also offers a new take on deconstructing the American archetype of the rugged white cowboy riding across the western plains, taking on the mantle of artists such as Richard Prince, whose repeated appropriation of the Marlboro Man in his Cowboys series highlights the artifice behind the fictions of advertising, and meditates on an entire culture's continuing attraction to spectacle over reality.



    Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), 1989
    Collection of the Guggenheim, New York
    © Richard Prince


    Quaicoe is now represented by Almine Rech (in Europe, UK and China) and Roberts Project (in Los Angeles). His second solo show at Roberts Project, ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii) in 2021, presented new works continuing the artist’s exploration and celebration of African black identity. This will be followed by a forthcoming solo exhibition at the Rubell Museum. Quaicoe’s work forms part of prestigious public collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fogg Museum at Harvard. The artist lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

    • Provenance

      Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
      Amref Health Africa ArtBall: Benefit Auction, Online, 13 October 2020, lot 30
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

      Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe paints empowering images of black men and women set against lush monochromatic backgrounds. His portraits of friends and family are celebrations of blackness and reclamations of lost and forgotten cultural dignity. He uses color, the primary instrument of self-expression in his native Ghana, as a language of transformation to create a dynamic of cultural, political, and personal redemption. Quaicoe was born in Accra, Ghana, where he was first introduced to painting by the expressive, highly stylized posters painted by local artists to advertise upcoming films, and attended the Ghanatta College of Art and Design for Fine Art in Accra, where he studied painting. He lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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Wilde Wilde West

signed and dated 'KWAME KY FEB. 2020' on the reverse
oil on canvas
76.2 x 61 cm. (30 x 24 in.)
Painted in February 2020.

Full Cataloguing

HK$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for HK$1,764,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021