Lot 207: HENRY TAYLOR, “Untitled (Symbol),” 2007 (oil on canvas). | Estimate £30,000-£50,000 / $39,210-$65,350. Sold for £230,750 / $301,590 (including fees) RECORD
OVER THE PAST SEVERAL AUCTION SEASONS, paintings by Henry Taylor have been selling at steadily increasing prices, regularly setting incremental new records for the artist. Another benchmark was set on Oct. 7 at Christie’s London. Taylor’s “Untitled (Symbol)” sold for £230,750 / $301,590 (including fees), an artist record, according to Christie’s, Iris Index, and previous auction results. The 2007 painting far exceeded expectations with bids nearing five times the estimate (£30,000-£50,000 / $39,210-$65,350).
“Untitled (Symbol)” exemplifies Taylor’s brand of abstract figuration. A woman with an afro, wearing a hoop earring, her arm raised and fist clenched dominates the foreground of the image, while a police car looms in the background. The Los Angeles artist painted the work the same year he created a pair of canvases depicting Black Panthers Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P. Newton. In 2007, all three of the paintings were exhibited in “Repeat after me: I AM a Revolutionary,” a two-artist show at Rental Gallery in New York.
The related paintings suggest the woman in “Untitled (Symbol)” could be a portrait of a well-known female Black Panther such as Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, or Elaine Brown? However, since Taylor doesn’t identify the subject, she is likely a composite. As he is apt to do, Taylor appears to have sacrificed the details of the painting in service of its symbolism.
As he is apt to do, Taylor appears to have sacrificed the details of the painting in service of its symbolism.
Taylor’s previous auction record was set March 22, 2017, when “‘The Young, the Brave, Bobby Hutton’ R.I.P. Oakland, California,” sold for $235,000 (including fees) at Christie’s New York. The Bobby Hutton painting was also on view in “Repeat after me: I AM a Revolutionary.”
Blum & Poe, Taylor’s gallery, is presenting a solo exhibition of his work at FIAC, the International Contemporary Art Fair in Paris, Oct. 19-22. “the floaters,” a massive mural by the artist, remains on display along the High Line in New York through March 2018. CT
“Henry Taylor” was published to coincide with the artist’s show at MoMA PS1 in New York. Taylor was in residence at the museum for months preceding the show, creating the paintings that appeared in the exhibition, portraits of ordinary and extraordinary people.