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Art Market

Market Brief: Bisa Butler’s Quilted, Jewel-Toned Portraits Are Receiving Universal Acclaim

Kaylie Felsberg
Aug 20, 2021 8:58PM

The latest

On Tuesday, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) announced Bisa Butler as one of 13 artists whose works were added to its permanent collection. The acquisition of Butler’s technicolor quilted portrait, titled Black is King (2021), marks the artist’s first time entering the South Florida institution’s collection. The New Jersey–born and –based artist, whose work has been exhibited for over two decades, is gaining renewed acclaim for her vivid portrayals of Black life in the United States. Rendered in bright, jewel-toned, layered quilts, her portraits celebrate Blackness through their depictions of everyday people and notable historical figures. PAMM’s acquisition of Butler’s work follows a recent jump in the prolific artist’s visibility over the past year that stretches beyond the art world and echoes her rising secondary-market demand.


Key figures

  • Butler’s work made its first secondary-market appearance this past April when her appliquéd cotton quilt Nandi and Natalie (Friends) (2007) sold for a staggering $75,000—over seven times the work’s high estimate—at Swann Galleries’s spring offering of African American art. This stunning auction debut came a little less than a year after Butler’s inaugural solo institutional exhibition at New York’s Katonah Museum. The show subsequently traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is currently on view through September 6th.
  • In addition to her recent museum exhibitions, Butler’s work has also landed on the covers of a number of high-profile publications. In December 2020, the artist depicted the racial justice activist Porche Bennett-Bey for one of Time magazine’s annual “Person of the Year” covers in hues of fuchsia and indigo. Then in April, Essence magazine announced it commissioned a one-of-a-kind quilt by the artist to grace the cover of its May/June 2021 edition. Based on an image of New Jersey rapper Nilah Bogar taken by Butler’s friend and photographer Paul Chinnery, the cover commission reimagines the original black-and-white headshot into a profound, color-saturated textile portrait of Bogar wearing a top of collaged images from last summer’s global protests for racial justice.
  • Nearly two months later, the artist was included in the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)’s “Juneteenth Artist Showcase.” OWN, in collaboration with Claire Oliver Gallery, spotlighted Butler in short-form video vignettes that celebrated the artist’s talents and explored the various ways in which she centers the Black experience in her work. Butler was featured alongside conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, mixed-media artist Tiffany Alfonseca, and interdisciplinary textile artist Gio Swaby.
  • Butler’s widespread institutional recognition and editorial projects have paralleled the artist’s growing demand on Artsy, which has surged over the past year. Thus far in 2021, the number of collectors following the established artist on the platform has nearly tripled from the year before.


Takeaway

Bisa Butler, Black is King, 2021. © Bisa Butler. Courtesy of the artist and Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Bisa Butler’s portrait of Nilah Bogar shown on the cover of Essence magazine, May/June 2021 edition. Courtesy of the artist and Essence magazine.

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As of April, the benchmark for Butler’s work at auction has been set by her astonishing secondary-market debut and suggests more staggering results to come. In addition to PAMM, the artist’s work is in the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Newark Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Given Butler’s soaring popularity both within and outside the art industry, collectors can expect the market for her work to continue to intensify and build alongside this enormous momentum.

Explore more works by Bisa Butler.

Kaylie Felsberg
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019