Contemporary Art

A Monumental Julie Mehretu Work Comes to Auction As Her Massive Retrospective Opens at LACMA

New York
Julie Mehretu's Rise of the New Suprematists , is a highlight of the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 14 November in New York

O ver the course of her 20-year career, Julie Mehretu has used abstract, densely layered paintings to tell stories of migration, movement, resistance and violence. Deservingly, the Ethiopian-born American artist is getting her first comprehensive retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the survey brings together around 35 paintings and 40 works on paper that “represent the extraordinary arc and range of her practice” and convey the artist’s “real understanding of the history of the 21st century thus far”, says curator Christine Y Kim.

The artist pictured with the present work at The Project, Harlem, 2001. Photo: Nicole Bengiveno / The New York Times / Redux Art. Art © Julie Mehretu

Included are all four panels of Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts), 2012, a series “conceived as a single painting” that reflects her longstanding interest in architecture, and the large-scale Seven Acts of Mercy, 2004, which is based on a work by Caravaggio and sees Mehretu “creating multiple, contradictory perspectives within one painting”, Kim says. Elsewhere, exhibits reflect her recent shift to experimenting with photography and figuration, with images relating to contemporary events such as the 2017 California wildfires and the 2014 unrest and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, overlaid with the painter’s gestural marks.

Julie Mehretu's Rise of the New Suprematists


Concurrently, Mehretu’s monumental, nearly ten-foot wide painting, Rise of the New Suprematists (2001) is on view in Sotheby’s New York galleries in advance of the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 14 November. The work was one of two paintings by Mehretu included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the other of which, Empirical Construction, Istanbul, now resides in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Julie Mehretu, Rise of the New Suprematists, 2001. Estimate $3,500,000–4,500,000.

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