Limited-edition prints by Peter Doig, the Scottish-born artist known for his depictions of nature and nostalgia, go on sale today (Nov. 9) to benefit an ailing nonprofit in London. The work portrays poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson, a longstanding influence of Doig’s, mid-performance at one of his reggae-infused spoken word concerts.
Sold through Paul Stolper Gallery, the print will be released in an edition of 150. Initially priced at £2,000 ($2,500) each, they will rise in cost after the first 24 hours of the sale. Proceeds will go toward the George Padmore Institute (GPI), an organization founded in 1991 that was borne out of New Beacons Books, Britain’s first black publisher and bookshop. The nonprofit, which houses archival materials relating to black communities of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Post-war Britain and continental Europe, will use the funds to address urgent repairs for its building on London’s Stroud Green Road.
The blue-toned portrait depicts Johnson performing at the Brixton Ritzy, which is where Doig first came across the poet in 1979 after moving to London in his late teens. “His life’s work has left a lasting impression on me and many other artists,” said Doig in an Instagram post.
Johnson, a trustee of GPI, is best known for his contemporary poetry collections and reggae albums. In 2002, he became the second living poet and first black poet to have his works published as a Penguin Modern Classic. Doig, a longtime fan of Johnson’s, cited the track Want Fi Goh Rave as one of his favorite works from the dub poet. “It remains as fresh today as it was when I first heard it back in 1979,” said the artist in a statement.
The high demand for Peter Doig’s work
Born in Edinburgh, Doig made his way to London after spending his youth in Canada and Trinidad. He often depicts these varied environments in his landscape scenes, which have realized significant sums at auction. In 2007, his 1991 painting White Canoe was sold by art collector Charles Saatchi for $11.3 million at Sotheby’s, then an auction record for any living European artist. The painter’s current auction record sits at $39 million, established in 2021 when Christie’s sold his 1990 Swamped.
Doig has tapped into the high value of his artwork over the years to support several causes, donating works to benefit auctions aiding emerging artists and children’s health. In 2022, he created a series of rugs to support a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) fundraising project aiding tiger conservation and gifted his 1991 painting Study for Iron Hill to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The artist enabled the donation of another work to the National Galleries of Scotland the same year, which didn’t have sufficient funds to acquire At the Edge of Town. Using a national scheme allowing works to be transferred into public ownership to help reduce inheritance tax bills, the painting was transferred to the institution by Doig and his family.
Other philanthropic moves by Doig have been prompted by more unusual circumstances. The Scot was for decades embroiled in a legal battle with a former correctional officer who insisted a painting he purchased from a Canadian inmate in the 1970s was the work of Doig. The artist was eventually awarded $2.5 million in sanctions money in 2022 and donated the funds to organizations that support inmates pursuing art.