Home Historical art Amy Sherald tells us about the opening of her first European solo exhibition in London

Amy Sherald tells us about the opening of her first European solo exhibition in London


American painter Amy Sherald, whose gender-bending portraits of black models have made her one of the most recognizable and commercially successful artists of this generation, will have a solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in London in October.

The world we create (October 12-December 23) will be Sherald’s first exhibition in Europe, as well as his largest to date at Hauser & Wirth. It will take place in the gallery’s two adjoining Savile Row spaces and will feature around 15 paintings, ranging from small to “monumental” works. A gallery spokesperson declined to give a price range for the works in the exhibition.

In addition to her portrayals of high-profile figures such as Michelle Obama and Breonna Taylor, Sherald is known for portraying ordinary black Americans at leisure, against monochrome backgrounds that separate them from context, time and place. In doing so, the artist addresses how the portraiture tradition has historically been used to erase certain groups of people from art history.

The upcoming exhibition will continue this practice, while making Sherald’s confrontation with the Western canon even more evident through a number of allusions to famous historical works. These include a man riding a motorcycle tilted through the air, in a pose similar to that of Napoleon Bonaparte on horseback, as depicted in the 1801 painting. Napoleon crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David. In another work, a child stands atop a slide, with his back to the viewer, mimicking a pose associated with that of Caspar David Friederich. Wanderer above the Sea of ​​Fog (1818).

“As an artist, I use certain motifs to provoke my audience’s intuition,” explains Sherald. The arts journal. “The reference to Caspar David Friedrich is one possible interpretation within a canonical framing. Sharing these paintings in Europe is an opportunity for me to reflect on how the portraiture tradition finds continuity as one of many living lineages in my work.”

Notably, many of these poses are more stylized and dramatic than those typically associated with Sherald, who is known for her paintings that explore the everyday and ordinary aspects of black life to challenge notions of experience. black American as extraordinary or inherently traumatic.

Asked about this stylistic deviation, Sherald says: “What may seem exaggerated or staged is primarily a way of capturing a singular moment in time, exploring the possibilities of that moment and the potential of what I’m alluding to. in the title of the show, The world we create.”

VJ Day in Times Squarea photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Sherald also touches on ideas around the performance of masculinity, a key theme of the exhibit, she says. One of the most convincing examples is the painting For love and for country. It recreates the famous photograph VJ Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt which depicts a United States Navy sailor kissing a woman in Times Square in New York on August 14, 1945 as Imperial Japan surrendered during World War II. Now the scene has been recreated with two black figures – both presumably male – coming together in a similar embrace.

“I was thinking about the story behind the photograph and the black soldiers who returned from the war soon after, and what it would mean to approach the iconic pose through another understanding of masculinity,” Sherald said. . “I view painting as a continuation of my interest in American culture and an expression of those stories once excluded from mainstream historical narratives.”

by Amy Sherald wellness queen (2012). Courtesy of Phillips

Although only five works by Sherald have ever been auctioned, its secondary market has drawn scrutiny due to the artist’s high prices and outspoken views on resale rights. Sherald’s auction record was set in December 2020 at $4.2 million (with fees) for Bathers (2015) at Phillips New York. More recently, his 2012 painting wellness queen sold for $3.9 million, prompting Sherald to issue a statement in Type of crop:

“Despite its common occurrence, it can feel personal when a painting is put up for auction by a collector. Especially, in this case, when it is someone you know and have worked with to agree on a ‘an alternative payment method to acquire the piece in the first place. It is every artist’s hope that collectors will do what is right for the work and for the artist by leveraging the gallery to help place the work,” Sherald wrote of the sale of the work.

But Sherald has also been able to leverage those awards for good: The artist recently donated $1 million to fund the Breonna Taylor Legacy Scholarship and the Breonna Taylor Legacy Scholarship for Undergraduate Students at the University of Louisville. This donation was made possible by the sale of his portrait of Taylor in 2020 to the Speed ​​Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution through the Ford Foundation and the Hearthland Foundation.

The London exhibition will be accompanied by the release of the first substantial monograph of Sherald’s work (£52; Hauser & Wirth Publishers), with essays by scholars Jenni Sorkin, Kevin Quashie and an interview with author Ta-Nehesi Coates. A much shorter catalog was released in 2019 to coincide with Sherald’s first institutional exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Louis.