Focus on Faith Ringgold

[24 Nov 2020]

She couldn’t found a gallery for years… but now the major American museums are all looking for a chance to adding the work of this pioneering artist to their collections. Why is Faith Ringgold essential? And what is the best way to buy one of her works?

Artist, activist and author, Faith RINGGOLD (90 years) is a both pioneer and an emblematic figure. Her work began questioning perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality more than 50 years ago. Through works combining personal and political narratives, Faith gives her version of the story, as an African-American woman. A version that began in the series American People (1963-67) exposing the social inequalities and racial tensions she witnessed during the civil rights campaigns and which reflected aspects of the Black Power movement. As this first series marked a milestone, it is naturally highly-coveted by collectors.

“I’ve always wanted to tell my story or, more precisely, my version of history.”

In the 1970s, Ringgold embraced feminism and demonstrated outside New York museums to demand equal representation of genders and origins in museum exhibitions. At the time, she was stopped. Today, she is exhibited by those same museums. At the MoMA, her large canvas Die (American People Series # 20: Die) is hung next to Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, one of the most emblematic works of the 20th century. That’s a powerful signal for an acquisition by the MoMA in 2016, and it not only reflects a new millennium sensitivity towards politically motivated art, it also brings to late fruition the institutional validation that Ringgold and many other activists demanded half a century back.

How to acquire the work of an artist shown at MoMA?

How can one acquire the work of an artist presented at MoMA next to Picasso… an artist that all the major Contemporary Art museums now dream of owning…? In the auction rooms, modest drawings are still accessible for around $30,000 for this now ‘essential’ signature. But buying a Faith Ringgold work is now clearly a competition and you have to expect to bid against other motivated bidders. For example her acrylic painting Jazz Stories: Mama Can Sing 6/7 (58 x 44 cm) was priced at $13,000 but was sold by David Rago in Lambertville for $30,000 in May 2020.

The bigger you think… the more difficult the task. There is massive demand for unique works of so-called museum dimensions, with prices climbing to more than $450,000 at auction. The highest bids are placed for her textiles art works (quilts etc.), a family heritage (her mother taught her how to sew) as well as an emotional and important cultural heritage:

“When I was younger” she confides, my great-aunt gave me a quilt of hearts and patchwork squares (…) This object was a labour of love, passed down from generation to generation. It was also a beautiful work of art that we kept preciously. Quilts have long been associated with nostalgia and domesticity, but they’re not just beautiful, utilitarian items relegated to the home. Quilts have long been recognized for their aesthetic value and, in recent years, the art world has become increasingly aware of this”.

nombre lots par segments

Faith Ringgold. Number of lots sold at auction : distribution by pricel (copyright


Aesthetically interesting, but also culturally important; their stories connect us to a form of resistance or even subversion, because black slaves made quilts as much to keep warm as to stay connected to the art forms practiced in Africa. “It was a way for them to be able to continue their art in a way that was acceptable to the slavers,” Faith Ringgold told The Guardian newspaper at the time of her retrospective at the Serpentine gallery in London in 2019. Her quilts were shown there in a retrospective… her first major exhibition in a European institution.
A medium for aesthetics and meaning, textile art has definitely entered the field of Contemporary Art, as well as the auction market. But the Moma still needs to acquire a quilt by Faith Ringgold for its permanent collection.