Born in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast in 1957, Ouattara Watts receives an education that is ultimately reflected in his work. An education which places him between tradition and modernity. At the end of the 1970s, Watts moves to France and joins the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. In January 1988 he meets Jean-Michel Basquiat. Impressed by the work of the Ivorian, Basquiat invites him to move to New York. Driven by their common interest in African culture, philosophy and spirituality, the two men will travel and work together, until Basquiat's untimely death in August 1988.
This loss signals a renewal in the work of Watts, who abandons his first artistic research and develops a corpus of new works. The paintings, in ever-increasing experimental styles, are covered with cryptic ideograms, symbols of a forgotten religion, of complex equations. So many signs that only he can decipher, almost acting as a tribute to the one he called his "soul mate".
Watts has held solo exhibitions at the Hess Art Collection San Francisco, Magazzino of Modern Art, Rome Italy; at the Boulakia gallery, Paris; Kemper Museum of Contemporary art Kansas City; Leo Koenig, New York; Baldwin gallery, Aspen, USA; Gagosian Gallery New York; Galleria Leyendeker, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Island, Spain; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; Akira Ikeda Gallery, Nagoya Japan. His work has been presented at numerous biennials and museum exhibitions, including Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany; The Whitney Biennial of 2002, New York; The Art and legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, New Museum, New York and The Short Century: Independence and liberation movements in Africa, 1945-1994, P.S.1 MoMA.
Watts currently lives and works in New York.