Michaela Yearwood-Dan: a new star is born…


A stranger to the auction market two years ago, Michaela Yearwood-Dan has joined the 500 most successful artists in the global auction market this year. We take a quick look at her ascent.

Since the beginning of 2023, works by Michaela YEARWOOD-DAN (1994) have already generated two million dollars at auctions. Two million for seven canvases which have all dwarfed their initial estimates at major auction houses. One of them, Love me nots (2021), reached no less than $884,000 at Christie’s at the end of February, exceeding the high estimate of $72,000 by more than ten times. Although this record was hammered in London (where the artist lives), the prices of Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s paintings have also rocketed in New York and in Hong Kong. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips have all experienced the phenomenal success of this powerful artist, who has not yet celebrated her 30th birthday.

Born in South London in 1994, Yearwood-Dan still lives and works in London where her work has already been shown several times, quickly establishing her as one of the UK’s most prominent young abstract artists. A key moment in her early artistic career (in 2017) was being supported by Bloomberg New Contemporaries, an organization that gives visibility to artists at the start of their careers in a traveling exhibition. In 2019, her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation, then at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in 2021. In 2022, Yearwood-Dan created a large installation as part of the inauguration of the cultural center Queercircle dedicated to bringing together LGBTQ+ communities. The same year, she participated in the third annual residency of Great Women Artists at Brescia’s Palazzo Monti, exhibited with the Tiwani Contemporary gallery (The Sweetest Taboo), and had her first solo exhibition in New York, Be Gentle With Me, at the Marianne Boesky gallery. Since 2021, her fame has continued to spread around the world and her paintings have attracted the attention of major collectors, notably thanks to her presence at the Frieze in Los Angeles with Tiwani Contemporary this year. Several articles have also praised her pictorial work as one of the most exciting of the moment.

Geographical distribution of Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s turniver at auction (copyright Artprice.com)

A form of abstraction that claims the right to be beautiful and openly feminine

Yearwood-Dan’s œuvre is based on works with a swirling touch and bright colors into which she inserts occasional snippets of text. They are often large-scale works whose scale is deliberately designed to impose their presence in a given space. She wants to invite the viewer to “bathe” in the canvas and to spend time with it. For Michaela Yearwood-Dan, paintings are above all lived experiences and sometimes she constructs her exhibitions as more elaborate sensory experiences, with soundtracks and scents of incense. The possibility of escape and of contemplating joy and beauty constitutes an act of resistance in itself.

As a black queer artist, Michaela Yearwood-Dan does not wish her work to become identified with ethnic, cultural or sexual minorities. Nevertheless, without wanting to adopt the voice of a community, she incorporates cultural signifiers into her works around the themes of love, vulnerability, femininity and her Caribbean heritage. She explains that her practice is geared towards self-historicalization, primarily executed through large-scale abstract painting.

Undeniably, the practice of Michaela Yearwood-Dan – her freedom of tone, her way of being at the heart of socio-cultural issues without exploiting them – brings a much sought-after breath of fresh air to the art market. Collectors have given her such a good reception that she ranked as the world’s 388th most successful artist at auction in H1 2023, all mediums and all periods combined, with an auction turnover of $2.6 million.