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This lot will be removed to our storage facility a… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION

All I Want is a Fighting Chance

All I Want is a Fighting Chance
signed, titled and dated 'ALL I WANT IS A FIGHTING CHANCE, 2006 M. Thomas' (on the reverse)
rhinestones, acrylic and enamel on panel
60 x 48in. (152.4 x 121.9cm.)
Executed in 2006
The Proposition, New York.
Private Collection, Florida (acquired from the above in 2006).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014.
Las Vegas, Dust Gallery, Mickalene Thomas: Brawling Spitfire, 2006.
Special notice
This lot will be removed to our storage facility at Momart. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Momart. All collections from Momart will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted in 2006, All I Want is a Fighting Chance is a glittering early self-portrait by Mickalene Thomas. Suffused with art-historical echoes, playful kitsch and nostalgia for the 1970s ‘Black is beautiful’ movement, Thomas’ practice celebrates lesbian and Black female identity through a wide range of media, including photography, collage, sculpture and painting. Her signature process, as in the present work, sees women depicted in bold acrylic and enamel on panel, with their details and outlines bedecked with rhinestones. This painting stems from Thomas’ Brawlin’ Spitfire series, where she portrays herself in the guise of a wrestler, either alone or locked in physical combat with a body-double. Dressed in a zebra-print leotard, she exudes strength, glamour and forthright wit, standing against a backdrop of turquoise and brown panelling which ripples with silver and amber rhinestone lines. The title All I Want is a Fighting Chance conjures its own retro charm, referring to a 1974 track by the R&B singer Millie Jackson. Other paintings from the Brawlin’ Spitfire series are held in the collections of the Rubell Museum, Miami, and the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama.

Thomas’ bejewelled hair, facial features and striped body-suit lend the present work a sumptuous sparkle, their texture contrasting vividly with the backdrop’s flat planes of paint. Style and costume are important elements of Thomas’ work. Her mother, a runway model, was her first muse, appearing in Thomas’ pictures as early as 2002, when she received her MFA in painting from Yale University. Her patchwork-like multimedia techniques also reflect the mismatched furniture and wood panelling of her childhood home, as well as memories of her grandmother’s quilting and crocheting. ‘The choice of materials I use in my art represents many of the concepts she used to embody in the work’, Thomas says, ‘like the artifice, the construction of ideas and narratives, and the ways in which we perceive beauty’ (M. Thomas, quoted in Z. Lo, ‘Black Beauties’, Tatler, October 2021, p. 218). Thomas’ clashing patterns oscillate between abstract ornament and depicted space, as in the odalisque paintings of Henri Matisse—the present work echoes the cavalcade of dazzling stripes, clothing and decor in his 1937 Yellow Odalisque. At the same time, her use of classical figural poses and compositions seeks to deliberately displace the centrality of white subjects in the paintings of the western canon.

Thomas’ inspirations for the Brawlin’ Spitfire series included the homoerotic paintings of Francis Bacon, Henri Rousseau’s striped tigers and a Mexican Lucha Libre mask that was gifted to her by a friend. She was also informed by the 1960s-1980s sports photography of Theo Ehret, which is collected in the book Exquisite Mayhem: The Spectacular and Erotic World of Wrestling. Many of Ehret’s photographs capture the intriguing subgenre of ‘apartment wrestling’, which echoes in the domestic settings of Thomas’ paintings. The spectacle’s combination of extravagant roleplay, theatrical self-fashioning and lesbian sensuality was a perfect vehicle for the artist, who sought to explore ‘the Black female as Amazonian goddess, wrestling with themselves’ (M. Thomas, quoted in T. Reid, ‘Mickalene Thomas’s Journey From Paralegal to Renowned Artist’, Wall Street Journal, 7 February 2022). With her unabashed presence and rich, layered materiality, Thomas’ self-image in All I Want is a Fighting Chance rejoices in the complexity and splendour of queer Black womanhood.

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