THE MOST INFLUENTIAL ARTIST OF 2019

Artsy Editors, Artsy, December 13, 2019

Mickalene Thomas

 

B. 1971, Camden, New Jersey. Lives and works in New York.
 
In March, Mickalene Thomas’s photograph of path-breaking activists, artists, and intellectuals graced the cover of Out magazine. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Barbara Smith, Tourmaline, Alicia Garza, and Charlene Carruthers appeared in Thomas’s distinctively glamorous, colorful, and pattern-filled style. The image, created in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, fit perfectly into the artist’s iconography of elegant, nostalgic, empowering, and fabulous portraits of women of color. The Out cover was not Thomas’s only foray beyond the art world this year: She also shot tennis star Venus Williams for the cover of the New York Times Magazine; created a characteristically bejeweled and patterned handbag for Dior; and teamed up with designer Grace Wales Bonner to reimagine the fashion house’s famous Bar jacket.

 

Thomas continued to be a force within the art world, as well, with solo shows at Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris during FIAC, at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, and a striking survey, “Better Nights,” at The Bass, which opened the week of Art Basel in Miami Beach. She also unveiled a major site-specific installation at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and in May, her painting Just a Whisper Away (2008) went up for sale at Christie’s in New York. The work catapulted past its high estimate of $100,000 to sell for $495,000—a new auction record for Thomas’s work.
Header images: Left: Installation view of “Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure“ at The Baltimore Museum of Art. © Mickalene Thomas. Photo by Mitro Hood. Right: Portrait of Mickalene Thomas by Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for ICP.
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