Tschabalala Self - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • "I believe there is a power in acknowledging your hypervisibility and trying to subvert it by performing in ways that are not expected and, at times, not respected. It’s a way to corrupt whatever system you are being targeted by.
     —Tschabalala Self 

    Confronting perceptions of the marginalisation and overt fetishization of the Black female body, Tschabalala Self is best known for her large-scale figurative mixed-media paintings, reaffirming what it means to be a Black woman in society. Asserting femininity in an act of defiant bodily self-expression, this striking and suggestive pose of a Black woman sat against a vibrant black and pink background in Daydream, rebels against the eroticised impositions of the female body, pertinently emphasised by the multitude of hands attempting to touch the figure. Aware that her paintings carry the weight of political and social implications on the surveillance and restrictions of black bodies, Self starts provocative conversations around the construction of Black identities in an attempt to raise dialogues over inclusivity and awareness. At its most direct, Self’s textile-based works emphasise that ‘you can’t fully acknowledge someone’s humanity unless you acknowledge every aspect of their humanity,’ a point emphatically addressed in Daydream.i


    In her commitment to the intersecting questions of gender, race, and representation, Self belongs to a community of contemporary artists including Mickalene Thomas and Deborah Roberts who employ non-traditional materials as a means of emphasising the constructed nature of identity and as a challenge to conventional notions of beauty. Bringing together textiles, fabric, and alternative modes of making, Self’s practice speaks poetically to the complexity of the social issues raised by her work. Strikingly autobiographic, Self’s use of fabric also engages directly with the legacy of artists such as Faith Ringgold, her highly textured paintings recalling the powerful combination of personal narrative, history, and social politics evident in the story quilts produced by Ringgold. Presenting a radical challenge to the male gaze, Self eradicates shame and demands that her figures occupy space. Amplifying Black female voices who have fallen through the cracks throughout history and reinvigorating discussions around female sexuality, as the artist states, ‘the goal is to allow for there to be better understanding: more diversity and understanding for the Black body. New ways of understanding.’ii Significantly, Daydream was included in Self's 2017 exhibition with Parasol Unit in London, her first major exhibition in the United Kingdom, and a powerful presentation of the ideas at the centre of her practice.



    i Tschabalala Self quoted in Jason Parham, ‘The Hypervisible Black Women of Tschabalala Self’s world’, Fader, April 2017, online.

    ii Tschabalala Self quoted in Jason Parham, ‘The Hypervisible Black Women of Tschabalala Self’s world’, Fader, April 2017, online.

    • Provenance

      Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Phillips, London, 14 October 2022, lot 20
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunstverein Hannover, Beyond the Black Atlantic, 15 February – 1 June 2020, p. 79 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Tschabalala Self

      American • 1990

      Harlem-born artist Tschabalala Self combines sewing, printing and painting in a singular style that speaks to her experience of contemporary black womanhood. Despite her extensive use of craft methods, Self considers herself to be a painter above all else. Her work is known for exaggerated colors and forms, allowing the personages within to “escape” from society’s narrow perceptions.

      Explaining her practice, the artist stated: “I hope to correct misconceptions propagated within and projected upon the Black body. Multiplicity and possibility are essential to my practice and general philosophy. My subjects are fully aware of their conspicuousness and are unmoved by the viewer. Their role is not to show, explain, or perform but rather ‘to be.’ In being, their presence is acknowledged and their significance felt. My project is committed to this exchange, for my own edification and for the edification of those who resemble me.”

      View More Works



signed and dated ‘Tschabalala Self 2015’ on the overlap
oil, acrylic, gouache, Flashe, fabric and canvas collage on canvas
159 x 126.7 cm (62 5/8 x 49 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for £127,000

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023