Why This Influential Photograph by Mickalene Thomas Presents a Rare Collecting Opportunity

We shine a spotlight on one of the most exciting photographs currently available on Artnet Auctions through March 19.

Mickalene Thomas, Din, Une Trés Belle Négresse 1, 2012
Mickalene Thomas, Din, Une Trés Belle Négresse 1 (2012).

Over the past two decades Mickalene Thomas has defined herself as an undeniable artistic force—and a must-have artist for many contemporary collectors. Artnet Auctions is therefore thrilled to offer the 2012 photograph Din, Une Trés Belle Négresse 1 in Select Photographs (open through March 18) which represents an exceptional collecting opportunity.

With a bold color palette, Thomas fearlessly remixes fine art traditions and techniques into fresh yet challenging compositions. Her work addresses issues of femininity, race, and beauty, and she counts artists such as Carrie Mae Weems and Romare Bearden among her influences.

Though perhaps still best known as a painter, Thomas underscores that photography is at the core of everything she makes. “What photography has allowed me to do within my work is to expand what’s possible in my creative practice,” the artist explained when she was honored at the International Center of Photography’s annual benefit in 2019. “Photography is the center of my practice; I use it as a way of drawing and seeing.”

In the case of the Thomas photograph in our sale, Din, Une Trés Belle Négresse 1, the image was a study for a striking large-scale painting that was exhibited in her show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2012.

“Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe”' installation view at the Brooklyn Museum.

“Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe”’ installation view at the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of Librado Romero/The New York Times.

With her increasing visibility and critical acclaim, it’s also worth noting that the secondary market for Thomas’s work has been on the rise. In 2019, eight lots sold at auction brought in nearly $1.5 million in total sales value, an incredible 738% increase year-over-year. The sales brought her average price at auction up to $187,181, with 63% of lots offered selling for over their initial estimate—signaling a growing and sustained interest in her work from collectors and institutions.

Mickalene Thomas‘s Performance at Auction

As seen in the graph below, sales of the artist’s work has outperformed auction house estimates on average:

Photographs by the artist have been more rare to come to auction, with only 21 entries recorded in the Artnet Price Database to date. The highest auction result for a photograph by Thomas was set with Courbet 1 (Melody: Sitting) (2011), a single polaroid mounted in an artist’s frame, which sold for $49,238 when offered at Phillips London in December 2019.

There’s never been a better time to collect Thomas’s work, especially a piece that features the artist’s signature subject matter and unique celebration of black femininity. Click here to learn more or place your bid—and be sure to explore the rest of the exceptional offerings currently live for bidding in Select Photographs.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to the specialist for this lot, Susanna Wenniger.


Head of Photographs
[email protected]
(212) 497-9700 ext. 172

Bid now.

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