One of America’s foremost contemporary artists, Adams is making waves in the UK too. Read on to find out more about him…
1. He comes from a family of high achievers
Adams is the cousin of Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons and his brothers, Reverend Run of Run DMC and neo-African abstract expressionist painter Danny Simmons. For eight years straight out of art school, Adams worked as the curatorial and gallery director of RUSH, a not-for-profit foundation set up by his cousins to champion under-represented black artists, with gallery spaces in New York and Philadelphia.
2. He has impeccable credentials
His employment wasn’t down to nepotism: Adams has an exemplary artistic education. After a BA in Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute, Adams went on to complete a Masters at Columbia, where he also taught other students. During his time at RUSH, he was known for building the careers of other artists, but in 2009 Adams decided to focus on his own work – and it wasn’t long before his career went stratospheric.
3. His works look fun – but they have a serious side
In an illuminating interview with Whitewall, Adams spoke about his observation that “certain aspects of a perspective of black America are not highlighted—success and normalcy, the triumphant things that happen within the culture.” This perception has driven much of Adam’s work over the last few years, notably 2016’s seminal Floater series, which focused on black people enjoying leisure time in swimming pools. The series rightly placed black people in imagery from which they had often been excluded – but it also celebrated their relatively newly-found freedoms (black people were banned from America’s public pools as recently as the first half of the 20th century).
In 2019’s Beauty World, Adams touched on black female identity and empowerment, drawing on inspiration from Brooklyn’s nail salons and layering make-up and hair on top of his images with acrylics. In the same year, Derrick explored black home life in Interior Life at Luxembourg + Dayan, which peeked into his character’s houses and minds: Hang Up is lucky enough to have editions from this exhibition available to buyers.
4. Adams’ work isn’t just for the gallery
Adams’ work resides in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art – but it’s not just confined to the gallery space. Watch Beyoncés 2020 visual album, Black Is King (released in collaboration with Disney+) and you’ll see a picture from the Beauty World series in an art-drenched mansion, being gazed upon by a lady in leopard print. Another place you can catch the artist’s work is his hometown of Brooklyn, where he recently created an 85-panel glass mural for Nostrand Avenue Train Station, just round the corner from his studio. Depicting people interspersed with roads, buildings and rail tracks, it’s typical of his signature abstract style. Fans of the Floater series can even wear a Derrick Adams: thanks to a collaboration with swimwear company Vilbrequin, his characters now grace a selection of trunks.
5. The artist’s star is rising
Christie’s recently named Adams as one of six postwar and contemporary artists to add to a collection, and auction sales of his work regularly command five figure sums. This year, his work Figure In The Urban Landscape 31 achieved $250,000, busting its high estimate by $100,000. At Hang Up, we have a selection of coveted Derrick Adams editions available to buyers. See them here, and please get in touch if you’d like to know more.