A 27-year-old Calgary-born painter touted as the newest darling of the New York art scene is experiencing a whirlwind rise to fame.
In late May, Anna Weyant’s painting, “Falling Woman,” sold at a Sotheby’s auction for US$1.6 million, multiple times its $150,000 to $200,000 estimated value. Weeks earlier, another oil painting, “Summertime,” hammered at US$1.2 million at a Christie’s auction while Buffet II, a 2021 painting, sold for US$580,000 to a Hong Kong bidder at an auction at Phillips.
Three years ago, Weyant’s figurative drawings and paintings were laid out on blankets and priced at US$450 each at a “staggeringly chill” art fair in the Hamptons, ARTnews reported.
Since the Long Island beach sale, three of Weyant’s solo shows have sold out, the Wall Street Journal likened her in a lengthy weekend profile to “Botticelli as a millennial” and she recently became exclusively represented by the powerhouse Gagosian gallery, whose 77-year-old founder, Larry Gagosian, Weyant is now dating.
The romance and sizeable age gap has been the subject of some “snarky and jaded” remarks, Weyant’s painting professor at the Rhode Island School of Design told the WSJ (Weyant is a 2017 grad of the school). Last August, the couple were spotted on the beaches of St. Tropez.
“She’s intelligent and has this Midwestern reserve, and she doesn’t speak all the art lingo,” Gagosian told the WSJ. “I’m just trying to protect her from the big bad wolves.”
Canadian art is having a moment and the timing couldn’t be better
Retired repairman filled his B.C. house with near perfect replicas of masterpieces he paints himself
The profile detailed Weyant’s split with a former agent who bought “Falling Woman” from her for US$15,000 one year ago. Today, the waiting list for Weyant’s work is several hundred names deep and she’s now preparing for a solo show for Gagosian in New York this fall.
The daughter of lawyers, Weyant has described in interviews drawing inspiration from French painters for composition and Dutch masters for colour palettes, as well as Eloise children’s books, Madeline dolls, New Yorker cartoons, the Grinch, her own life, and friends (she has a few she paints regularly and placed third in a National Gallery of Canada “So you want to be an artist?” contest for teens for a portrait of her friend Isabelle).
She’s described her childhood as “idyllic in a lot of ways,” and her personality as outwardly a little bubbly. She went to a conservative school outside of Calgary, where the kids wore not-so-lovely olive-green uniforms (various shades of green are part of her signature muted palette). She’s also fascinated by the “low-stakes trauma” of the tween and adolescent years. In “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” the dollhouse modelled after one she owned as a child, one doll has escaped through a window by rope; another room shows two skinny legs sticking out from under a bed. Another doll sits in an overflowing bathtub. “The works hint at a pervading, true-to-life wickedness hidden beneath distracting veneers,” writer and curator Jens Hoffmann wrote.
“Loose Screw” features a woman who looks strikingly like Weyant captured in profile at a bar, smiling but looking slightly unhinged, one hand bandaged. In “Falling Woman,” the character appears upside down, surprised mouth open, breast spilling. Weyant’s characters are often heavy on cleavage or flowing hair.
She prefers dark greens and dark yellows to bright colours, telling journalist and gallery owner Bill Powers “there’s sort of a stillness in my compositions that needs this really muted kind of melancholic tone.”
“Someone recently told me that my palette felt dead to them. I took it as a compliment. I mean, I think they’re quiet, and I think quiet can be powerful.”
She’s into “dark, dark humour” and tragicomic narratives. “If there’s humour in my work, it probably goes hand in hand with some sort of weird misery,” she told Art&Object’s Paul Laster. She began to consider a career as an artist when “it occurred to me that I am otherwise talentless.” She was discovered three years ago, when another New York-based painter she was then assisting posted some of her work on Instagram.
In New York, Weyant paints out of her one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Early in the pandemic, she moved back to Calgary with her parents, setting up a temporary studio using her mother’s serving platters as pallets. Oil paints take a long time to dry in Calgary, she explained to Powers. “It’s so cold and dry.”
She’s appreciative of her rapid rise in the art world, she told the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow, but all she felt was “pressure” as the Christie’s bidding climbed.
“The art world loves to devour its young,” art critic Jerry Saltz told the WSJ. “It can be difficult to paint with another voice in your head whispering numbers and prices, but maybe she can.”