Sotheby’s is used to millions and millionaires. The big American art names that make the millions for the venerable auction house founded in 1744 are Ed Ruscha, Francis Bacon, and Cy Twombly. Now a new star has been born, earning $1.6 million for ‘Falling Woman’ by 27-year-old Anna Weyant.
In April, a still life by her had sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $513,900, 10 times more than the market estimate. Her show at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, last year was a sell-out. Weyant’s Untitled offered for auction at Phillips, depicting a pair of long bare legs, sold for four times its estimate the same year. Weyant’s work is auctioned at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. ‘Summertime’(2020) gathered $1.5 million last month against an estimate of $200,000-300,000. On May 18, ‘Buffet II’ was sold for $730,000; its expected price range was $100,000-150,000.
‘Falling Woman’ shows a woman upside down with partially exposed breasts and a surprised open mouth—only her eyes are strangely stoic. The inspiration was an Edward Gorey illustration of a girl stumbling down a staircase; Weyant’s title is a visual pun on the “fallen woman” phrase. Dark humour pervades Weyant’s art; for example, ‘The End’, a depiction of two perfectly shaped bare bottoms, has been placed by the gallery’s exit wall.
Her paintings mostly depict women and still life, all in muted tones paired with black, greys and browns. She starts by making drawings and sketches before starting on a canvas, a maquette based on a model or a mannequin. Weyant uses photographs for reference sometimes. The latest marker in the meteoric rise of the blonde ingenue-eyed Canadian artist living in New York is securing representation by the illustrious Gagosian Gallery; Weyant is the youngest name in the formidable roster of the world’s largest art empire.
It is a dream coup—usually it takes decades for a painter to reach where Weyant has in less than a year. Artnet News reported last year that she is dating the gallery’s eponymous 77-year-old founder Larry Gagosian; the gallery has refused to comment.
However, Weyant has been on a roll since she graduated in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. “Anna Weyant was first caught last summer,” said Lucius Elliott, president of Sotheby’s Now Evening auction, adding, “I had many people asking me about her at the time. She had just done her first show at Blum & Poe. There was obviously a lot of interest in the business in the market. It was so hard to get to them at the entry-level, they ran out of show. These auction results also generate and drive a lot of attention. Rightly or wrongly, it’s something that people will notice, and the fact that she changed gallery representation towards the start of our view is also a relevant factor, especially Gagosian, which is the biggest gallery in the world.”
Duality or deliberate dissimulation, or both, we don’t know while describing the art world’s hottest new celebrity. Artists need Instagram like a painter needs a canvas. Though Weyant’s paintings abound on Instagram with umpteen hashtags, she is no longer on the site. Interestingly her painting ‘Reposing V’ is a gentle dig at social media showing a woman with one leg up in the air being photographed by a hand in a mirror holding an iPhone. Weyant told Laster, “Humour can be a way to control discomfort.
Mark Twain said something about humour being ‘tragedy plus time’. If there’s humour in my work, it probably goes hand in hand with some sort of weird misery.” ‘Reposing V’ reflects a young woman’s mischief deployed as a weapon of interrogation. There is mocking classiness in Weyant’s art that dis- plays eccentric wit; the seductive poses in ‘Friday’(2019) and ‘Uh Huh Honey’(2019) exhibit cheeky humour. Weyant told art critic Emma Grayson in an interview, “I’m interested in corrupted (but still playful) characters and tragicomic narratives. My figures are often self-reflective and primarily young women. I’m looking for humour in the clash of youth rebellion and repression, and in the seemingly paradoxical idea of misbehaving within a structured and controlled environment.”
Every serious artist is influenced by masters; Weyant’s inspo comes from a library of the creative spirit—Gerrit van Honthorst, Judith Leyster, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and contemporary artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Alice Neel, Balthus and Magritte. If she could time-travel, Weyant would definitely be studying in Baroque Rome or Amsterdam in the 1600s. American painter Elizabeth Peyton puts the number of brush- strokes to capture someone’s likeness to 10. Weyant’s one brush stroke is 10 times the price. When asked about choosing a career in art, she quipped, “At some point, it occurred to me that I am otherwise talentless.” Such confident self-deprecation has worked in her favour, and how!