Eight women artists to have on your radar in 2021
Specialists Anna Touzin and Isabel Millar on their pick of female artists with growing reputations — all of whom feature in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale or July’s First Open
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a bumper year for the young American artist Issy Wood (b. 1993). As well as opening solo shows at Beijing’s X Museum and JTT in New York, she was named an emerging talent to watch on the Artsy Vanguard list — and launched a music career by signing with mega-producer Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records.
When Wood made her auction debut at Christie’s in March 2021, Over Armour (non-linear, non-violent) sold for £250,000 — two and a half times its low estimate.
Wood landed a solo show at London’s tastemaker gallery Carlos/Ishikawa in 2017 — just two years after finishing her BA at Goldsmiths and before she had completed her MA at the Royal Academy Schools.
Appearing on the gallery’s calendar alongside names like Ed Fornieles (b. 1983) and Oscar Murillo (b. 1986) helped propel her shadowy, surreal canvases into the limelight, leading to group shows at Tate St Ives and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and a solo show at Goldsmiths CCA in London.
‘Observing these classical representations in European painting, I noticed that all the women portrayed are actually very similar to each other; they strike similar poses and make identical gestures,’ the Polish painter Ewa Juszkiewicz (b. 1984) said in 2019.
‘Looking at them, I often got the impression that they were trapped in corsets, crinolines, layers of petticoats constraining their movements, somehow imposing their presence on them in the world.’
Juszkiewicz has spent a decade addressing such depictions of women by reworking Old Master portraits to show the sitters’ faces blurred, bound and obscured. Full of rich colours and sumptuous textures, the paintings earned her a deal to be represented by Gagosian.
The work being offered at Christie’s, below, is based on a painting by Caravaggio that was destroyed in Berlin in 1945 — part of a series in which the artist refers to lost artworks of the past.
In 2013, Juszkiewicz won the Grand Prix for painting at the 41st Painting Biennale ‘Bielska Jesień’; the following year, she was named one of the 100 Painters of Tomorrow by the gallerist Kurt Beers.
Since then, she has had solo shows at the Galeria Bielska in Bielsko, Poland, and at the Galerie Rolando Anselmi in Rome. More recently, in May 2021, her profile received a boost when she was exhibited alongside the sculptor Rachel Feinstein on the Gagosian booth at Frieze New York — America’s first in-person art fair of the year.
Over the past few years, the large, gestural portraits of mothers, daughters, catwalk models, actresses, porn stars and literary heroines painted by Chantal Joffe (b. 1969) have been acquired by institutions such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Royal Academy in London.
In the 10 months since the Art Newspaper declared that her career had reached a new watermark, the Vermont-born artist, who trained at art schools in London and Glasgow, has received a fresh flurry of attention.
She opened a string of brilliantly received solo shows — at Arnolfini in Bristol, Lehmann Maupin in Seoul and Victoria Miro in London — and is about to debut a major new public commission for London’s Whitechapel Crossrail station.
The American interdisciplinary artist Frances Stark (b. 1967) — who works with collage, paint, text and video, and has even directed her own opera — has exhibited at MoMA in New York no fewer than five times. In 2011-12, the museum showed her standout work My Best Thing, a feature-length animation constructed from online chat-room interactions, which had already been screened at London’s Tate Modern and the 54th Venice Biennale.
Stark, who was formerly assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design, has exhibited twice in the Whitney Biennial — most recently in 2017, when Forbes said that her submission was one of ‘10 Art Works You Must See’.
Stark’s works are also found in the permanent collections of Tate, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Eleanor Swordy (b. 1987) has racked up eight solo gallery shows and dedicated fair booths since 2017, including exhibitions at Moskowitz Bayse in Los Angeles and The Journal Gallery in New York. Yet she first appeared at auction just two months ago.
When her bright, stylised, figurative painting Where To was sold in Hong Kong in April, it fetched an impressive HK$756,000 — almost four times its low estimate.
Swordy’s works often combine monumentality with the bright clarity of a cartoon. The artist herself has said: ‘I suppose the feeling I’m going for is an experience of recognition, followed by tension or bewilderment and then comic relief.’
She graduated with a BFA from Cooper Union in New York in 2010, but is yet to exhibit at a major museum. With her profile on the rise, it seems like the perfect time for an institutional show.
When Laura Owens (b. 1970) was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1990s, one teacher suggested that Abstract Expressionism was only for men, and women should paint from life.
She did the opposite, and in 2003 became the youngest artist ever to be awarded a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
‘My work doesn’t really deal with self-representation,’ she said that year, after declining a request to contribute a feature on female self-portraits to Vogue.
Since then, Owens’s huge AbEx canvases, which often contain collaged pieces of fabric and digitally manipulated screen-prints, have won her solo shows at the Secession in Vienna, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
In 2015, she was also awarded the Robert de Niro, Sr. Prize for her ‘significance and innovation in the field of painting’.
Her work is currently on show at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles, hanging alongside paintings by Van Gogh himself.
Given all these achievements, it’s not surprising that her auction record stands at a mighty $1.45 million.
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Katherine Bernhardt (b. 1975) paints large, expressive canvases that feature tropical colours and recurring nostalgic motifs such as hamburgers, cigarettes, Nike trainers and the Pink Panther.
‘They’re just good colours and shapes,’ she once said of her graffiti-like pictures.
In 2016 Bernhardt held her first exhibition, at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels, having signed a deal to be represented by the gallery. Since then, she has had solo shows at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Museo Mario Testino in Lima and Nanzuka in Tokyo.
When the portrait painter Jenna Gribbon (b. 1978) was asked what words of advice she would give to young female artists, she replied: ‘Trust in your own voice and keep working. I worked in my studio for many years without shows.’
But her dedication paid off, and in May 2020, after signing with Fredericks & Freiser gallery, she sold 10 pictures for up to $20,000 each at Frieze New York Online.
Three months later, Artnet called her a ‘rising star’ of the figurative painting world.
Gribbon’s most recent portraits, which depict the boredom and isolation of lockdown, reportedly had collectors registering interest before they were even hung on the walls of London’s Noho Studios for a Taymour Grahne Projects exhibition in April this year.