Paul Mpagi Sepuya - New Now New York Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    DOCUMENT, Chicago
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Artist Biography

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya

    American • 1982

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s distinct photographs are not portraits in the conventional sense. The viewer may catch a glimpse of an arm, torso, or hand, but rarely the sitter’s entire body. Deliberately employing fragmentation and manipulating perspective by using mirrors, drapery and collage, Sepuya has become known for photographs that explore the construction of queer and photographed bodies. This photographic investigation of identity and what it means to be represented is at the core of Sepuya’s artistic project, and has garnered him widespread attention since his graduation with a MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2016, as evidenced most recently in his inclusion Being: New Photography 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in March - August 2018.

    Investigating the studio as a social environment, Sepuya stages friends, partners, muses and lovers as the subjects of his photographs. The deliberate fragmentation of bodies in Sepuya’s photographs is meant to provoke a feeling of desire within the viewer, a longing to see what is concealed. Sepuya’s work features photographic equipment and studio space as a way to examine how identity and individuality – of both the image-maker and the subject – are made manifest in the construction of an image.  

    Sepuya’s photographs are groundbreaking in their simultaneous investigation of racial and sexual identities in reference with the history of photography itself; the stating of props are a sly nod to those found in photography studios from the early 19th century to modern times, drawing our attention to the artifice and constructed image inherent to the photographic process. “(The elements) are tied to a point in time starting in the 1920s and ’30s with (the emergence of) a more self-acknowledged gaze in photography,” Sepuya said. “You put a drapery and a column and mirror, and it’s art instead of a naked person.”

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Mirror Study (OX5A7431)

signed "Paul Mpagi Sepuya" on a label affixed to the reverse
archival pigment print
51 x 34 in. (129.5 x 86.4 cm)
Executed in 2018, this work is number 5 from an edition of 5.

Another example from the edition is housed in the permanent collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $12,600

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
20th Century & Contemporary Art [email protected]

New Now

New York Auction 3 March 2021