Great Britain

Painting that looks like a white canvas set to sell for £2.6million at auction


A PAINTING that looks all white from a distance is expected to sell for £2.6million.

It is only closer up that the 2008 work by US artist Glenn Ligon can be seen to feature text from Stranger in the Village, a 1953 essay on civil rights by activist and author James Baldwin.

The painting, Stranger #37, will be sold by London-based Sotheby’s at auction next Tuesday.

While most might struggle with its meaning, the auction catalogue helpfully points out that it uses “a medium that expresses the inability to articulate”.

Sotheby’s calls it “profoundly poetic and compelling” — a “monument to the Black American struggle for visibility, recognition and ultimately freedom”.

If you’re still scratching your head, all soon becomes clear.

The catalogue explains: “Ligon layers coal dust and white oil stick, rendering recognisable characters that are dichotomously decipherable and concealed. Stranger #37 becomes a visual metaphor for the fragmented experience and representation of both the Black individual and artist in America.

“Employing radical abstraction and the symbolic poeticism of a monochromatic visual landscape, Stranger #37 is an exquisite example of both Ligon’s singular conceptual artistic vocabulary and career-long exploration of questions of race and representation.”

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