Julie Mehretu’s massive painting Dissident Score (2019–21) brought $6.5 million on Artsy last Thursday, setting a record for the artist at auction.
Ethiopian-born American artist Mehretu, 51, whose two-decades worth of work is currently on view in a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, is known for her large-scale, multi-layered abstracted landscapes.
Six international bidders sought Dissident Score, which carried a pre-sale of $3 million to $4 million, ultimately smashing her previous record set by Black Ground (Deep Light), which fetched HK$44.2 million (US$5.6 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2019.
The record price achieved for Mehretu also represents the highest-value artwork ever sold on the Artsy marketplace platform.
All proceeds from the sale will benefit the Art for Justice Fund, an initiative founded by art collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund, that invests in artists and policy advocates working to end mass incarceration in the United States and the racial bias that drives it.
“Ever since I was a young child, the idea of prison was horrifying. I was devastated to see the criminalization of people through punitive structures and systems,” Mehretu said in a statement. “A work of art can be transformative. I wanted to make something substantial, and something that encapsulated the challenges of our reality.”
“Julie Mehretu has dedicated her life’s work to boldly exploring social, cultural, and political issues. She encourages us to radically imagine communities where safety is shared and justice is true,” Gund said in a statement. “Her tremendous generosity will help our growing community of artists and advocates accelerate the work to end mass incarceration.”
The Art for Justice Fund has to-date disbursed US$84 million to more than 200 artists, advocates, and organizations.