Lot 9
  • 9


1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Kerry James Marshall
  • Draw Me
  • signed, signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 2012
  • acrylic and graphite on PVC, in artist's frame 
  • 148.6 by 120.7 cm. 58.5 by 47.5 in.


Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above) 
Sotheby's, New York, 17 May 2018, Lot 429 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Vienna, Vienna Secession, Kerry James Marshall: Who's Afraid of Red, Black and Green, September - November 2012, p. 44, illustrated, and pp. 58-59, illustrated (installation view)


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is brighter and more vibrant in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“Paintings on the scale of Barnett Newman's Who's Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue, and Mark Rothko's rectangles, were designed to engulf the spectator and stimulate a transcendental experience of the sublime. I'm not particularly interested in transcendence, per se, but I am trying to retain a certain sense of awe and amazement... I am trying for a kind of disembodied poetry firmly tethered to Black American history and culture." Kerry James Marshall cited in: Exh. Cat., Vienna, Vienna Secession, Kerry James Marshall: Who's Afraid of Red, Black and Green, 2012, n.p.

Embodying Kerry James Marshall’s career-long commitment to rewriting race in representation, Draw Me is a powerful work from the American artist’s interrogative practice. Executed in 2012, the painting was first exhibited in the Vienna Secession show, Who’s Afraid of Red, Black and Green, which took place in the year of the work’s creation and garnered international acclaim. Draw Me belongs to a 16-part series of works for which Marshall adopted a symbolic palette of red, black and green as a means of channelling an art historical address of black African subjectivity. A riff on Barnett Newman’s monumental group of abstract paintings entitled Who’s Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue (1966-1970) – itself a twist on Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? –  the title of the exhibition makes overt reference to the three colours of the Pan-African flag in order to confront and challenge racial prejudices deeply ingrained within both contemporary social structures and the psyche.

In the present work, Marshall portrays the silhouette of a black woman in profile view against a brilliant red ground; several further profile studies encircle her – one of which is inscribed with the first name and initials of his wife, Cheryl Lynn Bruce – whilst below, a banner of black and green labelled DRAW ME in bold yellow font, gives the work its title. At once an invitation and an imperative, the title both alludes to the absence of black representation throughout the history of art and implores change. The artist explains: “[my] overarching principle is still to move the black figure from the periphery to the center and, secondly, to have these figures operate in a wide range of historical genres and stylistic modes culled from the history of painting... I am using African American cultural and social history as a catalyst for what kind of pictures to make. What I’m trying to do in my work is address Absence with a capital A” (Kerry James Marshall in conversation with Dieter Roeltraete in: Nav Haq, Ed., Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, Ghent 2014, p. 26). In this respect, his work can be viewed in dialogue with the practices of artists such as Ellen Gallagher, Kara Walker and Hurvin Anderson, all of whom seek to readdress, reinsert and re-envisage black representation within artistic discourse.

In Draw Me, Marshall’s vivid colour palette of red, black and green is charged with symbolic potency. With its origins in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) founded in the 1920s by the Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey, this tricolour forms the tripartite chromatic register of the Pan-African flag. Symbolising the blood, skin and land of the African people, the flag would become an emblem of the Black Power Movement, specifically the more radical Black Panther Party, in its address to the African diaspora for which it proposed a radical new solidarity between all peoples of African descent. Thus, recalling David Hammons’s influential series of African American Flags (1990), Marshall’s integration of the tricolour in Draw Me situates this work within a wider history of social justice and activism.

The African American female profile in Draw Me is potent in its reductive and simplified form. Surrounded by several preliminary illustrations, the woman’s head has been rendered with crudely delineated lines in the deepest shade of black acrylic. A hallmark of Marshall’s practice, the use of pure black pigment to represent skin tone simultaneously serves to examine the way blackness is perceived, and to reclaim both term and colour as a tool of empowerment. In the words of critic Wyatt Mason, Marshall creates portraiture “that looks the way a black man might feel about being looked at in a white world by people who see, in the face of a black man, not a person but a shade, a shadow, a pigmentation: blackness” (Wyatt Mason, ‘Kerry James Marshall is Shifting the Color of Art History’, The New York Times, 17 October 2016, online). In Draw Me, the deliberate and dramatic darkness of Marshall’s female profile casts the abysmal exclusion of black bodies from canonical art history into radical relief.