Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short



    “I like to paint images that portray power and emotions, and—at the same time—identity” – Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

  • Painting Power

    Evoking the postmodern, realist portraiture of Barkley Hendricks and Kerry James Marshall, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe’s luminous, bold paintings of black men and woman exude a sense of pride and aristocratic dignity. Born in Accra, Ghana, but now living and working in Portland, Oregon, he usually depicts his friends (from real life or those he met online) or people he encounters on the street in classically derived poses. 
    [left] Barkley L. Hendricks,  Misc. Tyrone (Tyrone Smith), 1976. Private Collection, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, Artwork © Barkley L. Hendricks  
    [right] Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, circa 1530. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image copyright (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image source: Art Resource, NY

    "Color means a great deal where I come from. It's a distinguishing quality – the very means of self-expression” – Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe 

    Shade of Black is a work from Quaicoe’s series of cowboys, and likely portrays model David Theodore, who wore a similar ensemble for a 2019 photoshoot.  As all of the artist’s figures, the present subject is depicted with conspicuously vibrant sartorial choices, donning a bright purple jacket atop a tangerine turtleneck, outfitted with a straw yellow cowboy hat. The lush treatment of these garments harmonizes with Quaicoe’s rendering of black skin—replete with golden, coral, and burgundy tonalities. 

    Quaicoe’s paintings are influenced by hand-painted Ghanaian film posters from the 1980s and 1990s, which is clear in the compositions of the canvases, usually featuring a single figure against a monochrome impasto-rich expanse. His idiosyncratic approach, coalescing African popular culture and black American portraiture, has earned him the reputation of one of the most exciting up-and-coming figurative artists today.  
  • In Interview

    AG: Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies?

    OKKQ: I have gone through several processes during the past few years trying to find my language as an artist after graduating. I first started off as an abstract and landscape painter focusing on nature and fantasies until I started taking lessons in portrait photography. This created a deep connection between me and the people I photographed, which led me to begin working on figuration. I have worked with different materials and explored different styles throughout my career, and it took me eleven years to find my own voice, which I currently inhabit.

    Read the rest of the interview here.
    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist 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.

      View More Works


Shade of Black

signed “Kwame Kye” lower right; further signed and dated “KWAME KYE MARCH 2018” on the reverse
oil on canvas
48 1/8 x 36 in. (122.2 x 91.4 cm)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020