Julie Mehretu’s “Dissident Score” sells for $6.5 million, proceeds to benefit the Art for Justice Fund



Watch here: Julie Mehretu in conversation with the Art for Justice Fund on May 26, 2021 “The art of ending mass incarceration”
Julie and Darren chatting
Julie Mehretu at her studio in NYC in conversation with Darren Walker. Photo Credit: Erin Baiano Imaging

New York, New York, June 10, 2021 – Art for Justice Fund and Artsy today announced Julie Mehretu’s monumental painting titled Dissident Score (2019–21) sold for $6.5 million on Artsy with all proceeds benefiting the fund. Mehretu’s generous gift, made possible by the Marian Goodman Gallery, will cement a new partnership with the fund, dedicated to ending mass incarceration and the racial bias that fuels it.

“Ever since I was a young child, the idea of prison was horrifying,” said Julie Mehretu. “I was devastated to see the criminalization of people through punitive structures and systems. Friends of mine would end up in jails or prisons in Michigan. It was a terrifying reality. We understood even as young people what that meant and who was at risk. When I moved to New York City and first witnessed police brutality, I saw the terrifying extent of the abuse and disenfranchisement.

Julie, Cat, Aggie in front of Julie Mehretu painting
Julie Mehretu at her studio in NYC with Darren Walker, Agnes Gund and Cat Gund. Photo Credit: Erin Baiano Imaging

“When I paint, it’s a deep gesture of imagination, invention, and of trying to find liberation. I wanted to leverage the commodification of works of art, a commodification that’s tied to the history of Blackness, and an insistence on power and agency, despite commodification. A work of art can be transformative. I wanted to make something substantial, and something that encapsulated the challenges of our reality.

“The racism of the criminal justice system is unconscionable, and we’re all complicit. That is the contradiction that I live and create in, and these works become their own kinds of commodities, but my insistence is also for their capacity to do something else. Our resources and collective effort should be used to create a different kind of world and radically reimagine how we live and care for one another. What I love about the Art for Justice Fund is this desire of invention and bringing together artists, thinkers and performers to contribute to the visionary possibilities for justice.”

person standing in front of artwork on wall
Photo Credit: Tom Powel Imaging

“Julie Mehretu has dedicated her life’s work to boldly exploring social, cultural, and political issues. She encourages us to radically imagine communities where safety is shared and justice is true,” said Agnes Gund, Art for Justice founder. “Her tremendous generosity will help our growing community of artists and advocates accelerate the work to end mass incarceration.”

Dustyn Kim, Artsy’s Chief Revenue Officer, shared, “At Artsy we strive to support philanthropic efforts, art and artists that champion inclusivity, equity and diversity, and we pride ourselves on leveraging the power of our brand to make the art world more inclusive. Our ability to authentically reach art lovers around the world has enabled us to make this sale quickly and dynamically, and we are humbled to celebrate this moment with Art for Justice and Julie Mehretu while solemnly recognizing the gravity of the cause we are grateful to help support.”

“Now is the time, politically and culturally, to shift the legal system in ways previously thought unimaginable. Julie’s gift will enable us to invest in the artists and advocates who are creating and executing new visions for shared safety,” said Helena Huang, Art for Justice Fund’s project director.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the painting will go directly to artists, policy advocates, and organizations working to end mass incarceration. This effort is made possible by the Marian Goodman Gallery, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the Ford Foundation.


About Art for Justice Fund
Art for Justice Fund is a six-year initiative created by Agnes Gund to end mass incarceration in the United States and the racism that drives it. This initiative, which concludes in 2023, has already disbursed $92 million to 200+ artists, advocates, and organizations. It is focused on creating new visions for shared safety.

About Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu is an American contemporary visual artist, known for her multi-layered abstract paintings on a large scale. Distinguished as one of today’s most exceptional and critical visual artists, Mehretu’s extensive practice is charged with political inquiry and exploration of key issues like migration and globalization. Her work is often driven by her observations and questioning of national and international socio-political challenges, upheaval, and injustice. Mehretu was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, she has received numerous accolades and honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2005, the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts Award in 2015 and recent election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2021. A retrospective of her work is currently on view at The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and will travel to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in Fall of 2021.

The Artwork

Julie Mehretu
“Dissident Score” (2019-2021)
Ink and acrylic on canvas
108 x 120 in. (274.3 x 304.8 cm)

About Artsy
Artsy is the largest global online marketplace for discovering, buying, and selling fine art by leading artists. Artsy connects 4,000+ galleries, auction houses, art fairs, and institutions from 100+ countries with more than 2 million global art collectors and art lovers across 190+ countries. Artsy makes purchasing art welcoming, transparent, and low-friction with industry-leading technology that connects supply and demand safely and securely at a global scale. Launched in 2012, Artsy is headquartered in New York City with offices in London, Berlin, and Hong Kong.