Christie’s New York set a new record for Derrick Adams in March 2021. A figurative painting set new standards for the artist. The second lot of the auction, “Figure in the Urban Landscape 31” (2019) by Adams, doubled expectations. The double-figure portrait of a father and daughter was expected to fetch about $100,000 to $150,000 and sold for $250,000 (fees included in all sale results). The price is a new auction record for a work by Adams.
Amtrak has commissioned critically acclaimed multimedia artist Derrick Adams to create an expansive new work for Art at Amtrak, the year-round public art initiative recently launched at New York Penn Station. The installation, titled The City Is My Refuge opening Jan. 19, 2023 and running through the Summer, marks the first time a single artist has taken over the entire concourse used for the program, providing a truly immersive experience.
Derrick Adams is a Baltimore-born artist living in Brooklyn and New York. His critically acclaimed work includes painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice is concerned with the ways in which individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and personalities become tied to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies.
His work explores the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image and the relationship between the individual and the monument, how they coexist and embody each other. Adams is also deeply concerned with how African American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism.
Most notably in his Floater series, he portrays black Americans in their leisure time and posits that recreation itself is a political act when embraced by black communities. The radical nature of this position has materialized in Adams’ work in his Deconstruction Worker, Figure in the Urban Landscape, and Beauty World series. Formally, Adams’ practice is rooted in deconstructionist philosophies related to the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface and the connection of complex and unlikely forms. His tendency to layer, hybridize, and collage not only images and materials but also different kinds of sensory experiences connects the artist to an appreciative array of pioneers ranging from Hannah Höch and Henri Matisse to William H. Johnson and Romare Bearden. In Adams’ art, the process can also be understood as an analogy: “Everything we are is based on a certain construction,” he once remarked. Adams received his MFA from Columbia University and his BFA from Pratt Institute.
He is an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation’s Studio Program. Adams is the recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2019), a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), a Studio Museum Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2016), and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2009). He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including Where I’m From – Derrick Adams (2019) at The Gallery at Baltimore City Hall; Derrick Adams: Sanctuary (2018) at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and Derrick Adams: Transmission (2018) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. Adams’ work has been featured in numerous important public exhibitions, including Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth. (2019) at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati; PERFORMA (2015, 2013, and 2005); The Shadows Took Shape (2014) and Radical Presence (2013-14) at The Studio Museum in Harlem; The Channel (2012) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Greater New York (2005) at MoMA PS1; and Open House: Working In Brooklyn (2004) at the Brooklyn Museum. His work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Derrick Adams’ images of black joy resonate with collectors at home and abroad.
Appreciated by museums, curators, collectors, and fellow artists alike, Derrick Adams’ art is now the subject of a booming market, making him one of the most sought-after contemporary artists. As recently as April 2021, Christie’s sold Figure in the Urban Landscape 31 (2019) – a Cubist-style double portrait of a father and daughter crisscrossed by vertical roads on which model cars are mounted – for $250,000 at its “Post-War to Present” auction in New York, tripling the artist’s previous auction record. It was the first of his large-scale panel paintings to be offered at auction, but the result, more than double the lower estimate, suggests there will be more to come.
Demand for the series was high at Christie’s even before the result, as works from the series offered at Tilton Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach in 2017 and 2018 found buyers. They were also the focus of a solo exhibition that opened at the gallery’s Manhattan space in November 2017.
“Derrick Adams is one of the most sought-after artists working today,” says Patrizia Koenig, director of “New Now” sales at Phillips in New York. “What makes Adams’ work so interesting is that it is both universal – depicting moments of joy, leisure, pride or tenderness that we can all relate to – and radical in its celebration of black culture. It is perhaps no surprise that we have not only a strong collector base in the United States, but also an international group of collectors bidding at all levels for his work.” Further evidence of his popularity is that one of pop culture’s biggest power couples are fans: A “Style Variation” canvas hangs in Jay-Z’s Roc Nation office in Los Angeles, and one of his paintings appeared in Beyoncé’s music film and visual album Black is King.
“Derrick’s collectors are global, of all ages and backgrounds,” Greenberg Rohatyn said. “He is part of a generation of artists who are expanding both the artistic language and the public understanding of what ‘Black Art’ is and does. His voice is joyful and profound, and the demand for his work reflects its relevance.”
Artist Derrick Adams on hip-hop and relaxing while Black | Flowstate /North Brooklyn Artists