Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Ouattara Watts



Ouattara Watts (b. 1957, Abidjan, Ivory Coast)

Fela, 2011






He is an American artist who uses brilliant colors, dynamic patterns, and hypnotic signs and symbols to explore the spiritual ties between people that transcend location or nationality. He constructs fantastic landscapes and mystical scenes to examine these metaphysical relationships. Watts has established a large lexicon of quantitative, geographic, musical, and scientific symbols and forms, both modern and ancient, to communicate his dynamic vision. Taking inspiration from Africa, his Parisian education, and his life in New York, he combines found artifacts, fabric, collage, and traditional painting and drafting methods, creating images that invoke his multicultural identity and give rise to various socio-historical readings. As he has stated: “My vision is not bound to a country or continent…While I use identifiable pictorial elements to be better understood, this project is nevertheless about something much wider. I am painting the Cosmos.” Watts studied at L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, before relocating to New York in 1989.


The Visionaries, 2014/The Magic Books, 2011

Notable exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art (2021); Espace Paul Rebeyrolles, France (2019); Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, Abidjan (2018); Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal (2018); Venice Biennale, Venice (2017); La Villette, Paris (2017); National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.(2006); Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); and the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York (2002), among others. His work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art, Washington, D.C.; The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Collection Mohammed IV, Morocco; Fondation Dapper, Paris, France; Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, New York; and the UC Berkeley Museum of Art and Film Archive, Berkeley, California, among others.
Photo by James Fischetti