Mozambique-born, Los Angeles–based painter Cassi Namoda is emerging as a sought after chronicler of every day life and post-colonial identity. Her paintings are selling as Black figurative artists see rising demand.
Namoda has gained traction following her inclusion in Stockholm gallery CFHILL’s Spring 2019 group exhibition “LA Dreams 2,” curated by Melanie Lum, in which four of Namoda’s paintings were placed with buyers. Later, she was included in the space’s acclaimed 2020 show “Black Voices/Black Microcosm,” which brought attention to various emerging Black artists such as Amoako Boafo, Otis Quaicoe and David Shrobe.
Her first solo show, at London’s Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in 2019, received positive notices from critics. Gan Uyeda, her gallerist and a director at Los Angeles’s François Ghebaly gallery, tries to capture some of what appeals to buyers. “There’s a plainspokenness to the narratives she unfurls, but at the same time she leaves space for the unknowable,” Uyeda said. “As someone with mixed Mozambican and American heritage and who has lived a somewhat nomadic life, she’s able to harmonize these very disparate ways of navigating, interpreting, and understanding the world.”
The London show followed an early milestone that came with her inclusion in NADA’s 2018 Miami Beach fair. At that event, the Pérez Art Museum Miami acquired her painting Sasha and Zamani’s Tropical Romance (2018), which depicts “two distinct conceptions of time in East African thought, personified as twin opera-goers,” according to Uyeda. “This intertwining of the mystical plane with the everyday is a hallmark of Cassi’s work, and that early support from such an important public collection was an important step for her.”
The gallery has begun to see fast-paced sales for Namoda’s art. In August, at its virtual booth in the second edition of the June Art Fair, hosted this year by Hauser & Wirth, François Ghebaly sold six paintings by the artist for prices between $4,500 and $14,000. The gallery reported that those works went to prominent collections across the United States, including those based in Los Angeles, the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast, as well as in Brussels.
The artist’s nascent market is also seeing a rise relative to her exposure in the fashion world. In January 2020, her work was featured on the cover of Vogue Italia. This month, the artist herself appeared in their digital covers issue.
Namoda’s early success also coincides with a rise in figuration’s appeal on the middle market. The trend follows increasing institutional investment in marginalized and BIPOC artists addressing issues of representation in their practices.