Tschabalala Self - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I love working with fabric, because it’s been in the world. It already has this energy within itself and I can build on and mould that energy when telling my own stories and use that energy towards my own narratives.”  —Tschabalala Self

    Looking at the viewer fixedly from a seated position, the flamboyant woman in Tschabalala Self’s Princess is a token of the artist’s imaginative mind. Striking a balance between portraiture and caricature, the protagonist is endowed with grandiose features including a purple face, an orange neck, cheetah-print collarbones and mulberry stilettoes, thus exuding a strange but compelling force and dominating the wide expanse of the work with unparalleled charisma. She is at once divine and levelled, distant and familiar, embodying the claim that Self’s “figures are not exactly portraits and not precisely characters,” but instead, “avatars of her own personality.”i

    “My work is fighting for a larger understanding for people like me, whether that be women, black women, people of colour.”
    —Tschabalala Self

    Tschabalala Self in the studio. Image: © Ike Edeani


    Born in Harlem in 1990, Self primarily depicts black women in her artistic practice, addressing the way black bodies defy the narrow spaces in which they are often forced to exist. Across her oeuvre, Self’s figures are realised with a mixture of printing, painting, and textiles – the latter an integral aspect of the artist’s creative process. Discussing the personal significance of incorporating discarded scraps of canvas and fabrics in her work, Self recalls her childhood: “my mom would sew at home [...] I started sewing after my mom passed. She would trace patterns on the floor, and I frequently work on the floor as well. I use a lot of the fabric that she collected. She would also reuse things. If my sisters outgrew a pair of pants, she would turn them into skirts. I do that in my practice. Everything is a part of the space that it was created in.” Moreover, Self’s use of fabric taps into multiple currents in Black art history, such as the renowned quilt-makers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who combined denim-work clothes and other textiles to create inventive patchwork designs. Skilfully interweaving the personal with the political, Self draws on her own history and the associations of textiles to women and ‘women’s work’ to create highly charged objects that explore attitudes towards race and gender in the twenty-first century.

    “I think about craft as being something that’s imbued with a spirituality, or maybe some kind of supernatural ability. I appreciate the relationship craft has to ‘women’s work’ and its association with the feminine. I identify with that.”
    —Tschabalala Self

    Originally realised as a unique assemblage work of the same title in 2017, the United Nations for The Art of Empowerment commissioned Self to reproduce Princess in a limited edition of 30 to raise money and awareness in support of women around the world. Executed in quilted fabric – recognised by the artist as “a craft that unites women across cultures and ages” – Princess is an instantly absorbing amalgamation of stylistic inspirations and colours that immediately captivates onlookers. Presenting the viewer with a seminal female figure, Self addresses the history of racism, stereotypes and abuse inflicted upon the Black female body. Unnamed and universal, the confident women portrayed in Princess is both a symbol of female empowerment and a celebration of self-embodiment that resonates with the artist’s desire to develop a stronger and more celebratory rhetoric around identity.





    i Laura Cumming, ‘Lubaina Himid: Invisible Strategies; Tschabalala Self review – history and mystery’, The Guardian, 22 January 2017, online.







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    • Provenance

      Courtesy of the artist
      Paddle8, UN Women UK Charity Auction, November, 2018
      Property from a Private Collection, London
      Phillips London, New Now, 12 Decemeber 2019, lot 2
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • 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



Hand-sewn cotton and tulle quilt on cotton.
129 x 102.2 cm (50 3/4 x 40 1/4 in.)
Signed, dated and numbered 29/30 in black felt-tip pen on the label affixed to the reverse (there were also 2 artist's proofs), commissioned for The Art of Empowerment, UN Women UK, lacking the original dowel hanging rods, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £10,160

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 7 - 8 June 2023