This week’s cover art is the mesmerizing “Night Fell Upon Us (Up On Us)” by Christina Quarles, sent to us by Lex Weill, owner of Lex Weill Gallery in Southampton. Here, he discusses seizing the opportunity to purchase this painting, how it represents Quarles’ work as a whole and her promising career trajectory.
LEX WEILL DISCUSSES CHRISTINA QUARLES & MORE
What inspired you to purchase “Night Fell Upon Us (Up On Us)” by Christina Quarles?
The concise answer as to why I purchased “Night Fell Upon Us (Up On Us)” by Christina Quarles is that the opportunity to acquire one of the most desirable works from a generational talent only presents itself so often.
Luckily, I have been familiar with her work for years, as I chose her for my emerging artist project in 2019 while obtaining my Master’s in Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s Education. It was as simple as her work catching my eye as something pure and totally unique.
In addition to this, I have to like the artist beyond just admiring their work. Some dealers/collectors can separate the artist from their work, but I personally can’t. I collect artists whose personal brand and values align with mine — possibly someone I can see myself as being friends with.
As opposed to prime examples of a Francis Bacon, Ed Ruscha or Warhol — all artists with whom the present work shared the physical stage with during Sotheby’s flagship evening sales, Quarles’ public market is in its nascent stage.
One could say her auction history has been sparse, even close to non-existent prior to the sale of this work. For this reason, the general art-buying public would have had a hard time precisely identifying the importance of both the artist and this work within her acclaimed practice.
However, for people inside the industry — dealers, advisors and museum curators alike — Quarles has been highly exalted as one of the most groundbreaking and deeply engaging artists of our time.
Her accolades more than qualify this reputation garnered within the industry and more importantly, among her peers. Quarles’ work has been included in The Milk of Dreams, a Cecilia Alemani curated exhibition at the Central Pavillion of the 2022 Venice Biennale.
Her paintings are also featured in some of the most acclaimed public collections including The Tate Modern in London, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Quarles was also the focal point of a critically acclaimed exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2021 and has joined Hauser & Wirth’s artist roster recently.
What makes this piece an ideal choice for Dan’s Papers cover art?
Dan’s Papers has a long tradition of having captivating artwork on its covers. Usually, these covers have featured local talent specific to the Hamptons and East End territories, and are highly representational of these locales in the work itself.
As the Hamptons have continued to develop into a more international scene, Dan’s Papers continues to expand its readership to a broader demographic that includes distribution in metropolitan areas such as downtown New York.
For this reason, I thought it would be appropriate to feature an artist of international acclaim on the cover, someone who is really capturing the times and current moment— what it means to be a person in the here and now.
In my opinion, Christina Quarles is one of the most innovative and totally unique artists on the global landscape. As Lex Weill Gallery’s and Dan’s Papers’ individual footprints continue to broaden, I couldn’t think of a better piece to encapsulate both brands’ trajectories in a visual medium.
How is this painting representative of Quarles’ style and work as a whole?
This work is an archetypal example of Christina Quarles’ oeuvre, in that it epitomizes the aggregate core pillars that make up her body of work. Some of these principal foundations include unorthodox depictions of the human body that explore de-racializing the human form, the indefinable multiplicity of identity and, lastly, the beauty of ambiguity.
Quarles elaborates, “Throughout my paintings, there are perspectival planes that both situate and fragment the bodies they bisect — location becomes dislocation. Fixed categories of identity can be used to marginalize, but paradoxically, can be used by the marginalized to gain visibility and political power. This paradox is the central focus of my practice.” (Christina Quarles’ artist statement, christinaquarles.com)
This paradox becomes even more evident when Quarles talks about her practice in relation to portraiture:
“I’ll often say that these are portraits, but they aren’t portraits of looking at a body — they’re portraits of living within your own body. So much of my work is about moments of intimacy when you can actually exist in all your contradictions and complications.” (Christina Quarles quoted in Claire Voon’s “Christina Quarles Paints the Complicated, Intimate Moments When We Feel like Ourselves,” artsy.net).
How do you foresee Quarles’ career trajectory moving forward?
Christina Quarles’ style is totally unprecedented and unique — she has every angle down both technically and conceptually. I have every reason to believe that she will continue this vertical trajectory and enjoy her rightful place among the most innovative and interesting artists of our time.
For this reason, “Night Fell Upon Us (Up On Us)” was purchased as a legacy piece for my own private collection and will hopefully be in my family for generations.