At the age of 105 Carmen Herrera is probably the world’s oldest working artist; and she is certainly one of the most determined – having won her long battle for recognition in a male-dominated artworld only in her late nineties. Herrera’s work Untitled, from 2013, is one of the star-lots at Bonhams Contemporary Art sale on 28 April in London. It has an estimate of £150,000-200,000.
Head of Sale, Cassi Young, commented: “Carmen Herrera is an incredibly impressive figure. Still working at the age of 105, her long struggle for recognition is a damning reflection on the obstacles facing female artists for much of the 20th century. Her vibrant work, Untitled, encapsulates Herrera’s strong yet playful character – and it certainly stands out. We’re particularly pleased to be able to offer this piece alongside a number of other wonderful works by top female contemporary artists, including Tracey Emin, Tschabalala Self, and Genieve Figgis.”
Born in Cuba in 1915, to journalist parents, Herrera trained in Havana in the 1930s as an architect when, as she herself says, she first appreciated the boundless possibilities of the straight line. She had spells in Paris, where she spent time in the company of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Matisse, to name but a few, before moving to New York in the 1940s, where she has lived ever since. Under the radar for many years, Herrera finally won international recognition in the early 2000s when she finally received her first solo show – and later sold her first painting, at the age of 89.
Other highlights of the sale include:
- Tracey Emin, Passion Passion, 2010. Estimate: £35,000 – 55,000. Emin rose to prominence in the 1990s as one of the YBAs (Young British Artists). She uses her neon works, which are created using her own handwriting as the font, to express her inner thoughts and desires with the outside world. “Neon is emotional for everybody,” she has commented, and her neon works have often been installed in public spaces, with the aim of bringing strangers together. In 2018, to mark the 150th anniversary of St Pancras and the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy, Emin unveiled a 20-metre-long neon sculpture in London’s St. Pancras station, which read, “I want my time with you” – both a touching message for both those parting or reuniting at the station, and a political message intended for immigrants arriving in Britain amidst Brexit concerns and a European migrant crisis.
- Tschabalala Self, Wash N’ Set (Yellow), 2019. Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000. Tschabalala Self was born in Harlem, New York, in 1990 and studied fine art at Bard College. Her mother ran a trade programme at the Bronx Community College and was a talented seamstress. Following her mother’s death, Self began to work with textiles – using her mother’s old sewing machine, she layered different fabrics onto the canvas, creating mix-media collages that explore cultural attitudes toward race and gender. She has said that her aim is to create a ‘new rhetoric’ for black people and people of colour. Self was one of the stars of Art Basel Miami in 2016, and her work features in Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Astrup Fearnley, Oslo, and Yuz Museum, Shanghai, amongst others.
- Genieve Figgis, Family Portrait, 2015. Estimate: £55,000-75,000. Born in Ireland in 1972, Figgis first gained recognition through social media. In 2014 she made her American debut exhibition at Harpers Books in East Hampton, New York and published her first book, Making Love with the Devil. Her work combines Rococo influences with a playful take on upper-class luxury culture.
- Leading the sale will be Untitled (Baum 18) by Albert Oehlen, 2014. Estimate: £380,000-580,000. Albert Oehlen has been at the forefront of artistic innovation since the late 1970s. Combining influences from Surrealism to Abstraction, Oehlen’s often witty, sometimes provocative, works feature in important galleries and collections around the world. One of Oehlen’s Baumbilder (Tree Paintings), Untitled (Baum 18) was included in the exhibition Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2016-2017, and in Albert Oehlen – An Old Painting In Spirit, at Kunsthalle Zurich in 2015.