By Nii B. Andrews.

The work of Derek Fordjour is held in collections throughout Europe and the United States, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Perez Art Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

He frequently serves as a lecturer at institutions and as a Core Critic at Yale University School of Art. 

Next month, he will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis.

Represented by Josh Lilley in London and Night Gallery in Los Angeles, Fordjour joined Petzel Gallery in New York in April. 

In May, Beyoncé and Jay-Z scooped up “Top-Ten ALL STARS” (2019), a single work composed of 10 individual portraits, offered by Night Gallery at Frieze New York. 

A couple of weeks later, Pérez Art Museum Miami acquired “Worst to Be First” (2019) by Fordjour. 

Executed with acrylic, charcoal, oil pastel, and foil on newspaper, the painting depicts a tennis player and references the challenges endured by pioneering figures who achieve historic “firsts.”

In September, at the Philips auction house in New York, a new artist record for his work was set.

“Agency and Regulation (study)” (2016) was estimated to sell for USD40-60K and the painting more than doubled high expectations reaching USD137.5K (fees included).

His previous record was set in November 2018, when “No. 36” (2014) sold at Phillips New York for USD37.5K (fees included) against an estimate of only USD 5-7K, more than five times high expectations.

In less than 12 months his record at auction has increased by USD 100K or over 300%.

His work explores the themes of identity, communality and inequality. He often references sports culture – marching bands, uniforms, teams- to investigate the advantages of the collective unit; risk and reward.

There is always the manifestation of intense, bright, colors with repitition…..perhaps akin to jazz and or classic kente weaving aesthetic?

A certain vulnerability of his painted figures is also unmistakable….again perhaps referencing the unpredictable consequences of agency by the “Other”.

His last show in London explores how generational advantage and invidious patronage trump (oops!) talent and achievement; just as in casinos the house will win as the odds are always against the punters; you cannot win against the house.

The title of the show, “The House Always Wins,” is a metaphor for life which questions equal opportunity and fairness in a fractured predatory world.

Fordjour currently lives and works in Harlem. To his immense credit, he is very active in the Project Reset Program,  an art based activity that aims to reduce incarceration rates.

For Fordjour, the work is about affirming humanity, including his own.

He attributes his involvement with Project Reset with helping him speak honestly and publicly about his own potentially life-altering brush with the justice system 20 years ago. “Every day we go in the studio, it’s full of potential.” 

As Fordjour explains of the Project Reset participants, “that’s the space that is for them empowering.”

Derek Fordjour is a graduate of Morehouse College, Atlanta; the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; and Hunter College, New York.

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