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Derrick Adams

Isabella Lauria, Associate Vice President, Head of Post-War to Present Sales and Specialist of Christie’s, speaks about Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams’ art market.

What are your thoughts on the art market for Derrick Adams and how it has evolved over the past few years? When did you start seeing demand for his works and what is driving his growing market? 

I remember seeing the Luxembourg & Dayan show in early 2019 and absolutely loving it. The show was titled Interior Life, and Derrick made the wallpaper in addition to the suite of works on paper from his Deconstruction Worker series that were the focus of the show. There was already demand for his work at the time and the entire show was sold out. From there, Derrick went on to have a few more solo exhibitions, his MTA involvement and the mural at Harlem Hospital, as well as institutional recognition in his hometown of Baltimore at City Hall, Hudson River Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. His works are in the collections of The Met, Whitney Museum and The Studio Museum, among many others. This institutional focus and recognition propelled his primary market forward, and now that we have achieved a major record at auction, I firmly believe the secondary market will continue to strengthen as demand increases. I think demand for his work is driven by interest in artists working through identity politics and issues of systemic racism, while Derrick’s use of bright, happy motifs and palettes adds to the esthetic appeal and desirability, setting him apart from his peers.

Was there a specific artwork that saw him make his initial breakthrough?

His Floater series from a few years back is the series that brought him international recognition and acclaim. The idea of a series that depicted Black people lounging on swimming pool inflatables was the way he chose to occupy a different space – to set himself apart from other artists who were also commenting on issues of race and oppression. Derrick wants to bring joy to the forefront of his work, and his use of bright, happy motifs and palettes successfully does so, while still speaking of the issues Black Americans face with regards to racism, oppression and trauma. 

What in particular stands out about his works, his approach, process and technique? 

The modernist influence and his interest in collage and layering. He is “hybridizing” his sensory experiences. Matisse, Bearden and Lawrence immediately come to mind from a process and technique standpoint. Additionally, the narrative around Black life and culture, highlighting his interest in leisure and its importance, also makes me think of some of Kerry James Marshall’s work. Derrick has struck the perfect balance between imbuing a personal and difficult narrative within the context of joy and leisure. The work in turn helps fill the voids of Black life and culture in our popular visual culture.

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