Baltimore-born and Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams is best known for portraying scenes from everyday life that celebrate black culture and self-determination. I am discussing his art market with Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, founder of Salon 94. Her New York City-based art gallery has been representing Adams since September 2019.
Was there a particular work of art that Derrick Adams made his first breakthrough?
Derrick has developed many groups of works in the course of his activity: Patrick Kelly: The trip, Figures in the urban landscape, swimmer, We came to celebrate and plan, and Style variations belong to the well-known series that are sought after by collectors and curators.
What distinguishes his work, approach, process and technology in particular?
Derrick’s practice reaches a wide audience who understand his unique visual language as conveying black normality – depicting black people as full-dimensional. He works across media and maintains a distinctive style so that his art is both graphically consistent and full of variety and nuances, familiar and surprising. Derrick is a master of materials and techniques, from painting and sculpture to performance, collage and drawing. He uses these to create vivid and multifaceted depictions of black life at a time when it would be too easy, let alone dangerous, to reduce the experience of Black Americans to just pain or trauma. His work is cheerful but deeply radical.
What have been his most important gallery and museum exhibitions during his career?
Derrick’s Breakout Show at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York City in Spring 2019, organized by Amalia Dayan! This exhibition brought Derrick international visibility. Just before the pandemic, he opened a critically-admired exhibit dedicated to him at the Hudson River Museum swimmer and We came to celebrate and plan Series. He also had a very personal show in his hometown at Baltimore City Hall. A group of collages based on The Green book for black drivers can currently be seen in Derrick Adams: Sanctuary at Momentary, a satellite room at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Building on the dynamism of these important shows, Derrick has exhibitions at the Cleveland Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and the Longlati Foundation in Shanghai for the coming fall. His museum exhibits often travel or take different forms in later showrooms as curators are constantly interested in exploring previous groups of works and emphasizing how important these pieces are to his current practice.
When did he make his auction debut?
Derrick’s first piece was auctioned in May 2018.
What’s important to Figure in the urban landscape 31 recently raised $ 250,000 at Christie’s New York auction, and what does that mean for the artist?
Derrick belongs to a generation of artists who are expanding both artistic language and the public understanding of what black art is and does. His voice is cheerful and profound, and the demand for his work reflects its timeliness. Keen collectors recognize that Derrick is a constant portrait painter and is associated with a critical line of historical American artists such as Romare Bearden, and that he is comparable to contemporary artists such as Amy Sherald and Jordan Casteel who put people and experiences in their true light.
Who are the collectors of his works?
His collectors are worldwide, of all ages and origins. We work with collectors from around the world who purchase everything from prints to large format paintings. Derrick’s prints are very popular with young collectors. His printing practice is robust, lively, and important to him. Sean Carter’s (Jay-Z) portrait in The New York Times with a glamorous Wig variation Painting behind it is instantly iconic.
Which categories or topics of his works arouse the greatest interest among collectors?
People are drawn to Derrick’s work because it expresses black normality and encompasses black joy. The Style variations Painting in the new gallery space of Salon 94 at 3 East 89. to seethe Street attracted many visitors. They were made during the Covid-19 pandemic and also tell a story of the year.