Eight Years Ago, Genieve Figgis Was Painting in Her Kitchen for an Audience of One. Now, Collectors Clamor for Her Six-Figure Works

Eight Years Ago, Genieve Figgis Was Painting in Her Kitchen for an Audience of One. Now, Collectors Clamor for Her Six-Figure Works

Sometime about 2013, Irish artist Genieve Figgis obtained a Twitter message from another person unforeseen. 

She experienced just started off applying the system months prior, finding in it a little something she didn’t have accessibility to elsewhere: a spot to clearly show her paintings. “I felt a bit dropped and that I did not in good shape into the plan of what art was in my present ecosystem,” she recalled a short while ago. “I had no hope and almost nothing to get rid of.”

Certainly, Figgis did not have much of a portray profession at that stage, nor did she have lots of connections in the art environment. A mother of two in her early 40s who had just completed graduate university at the Nationwide School of Artwork and Structure in Dublin the calendar year prior to, she was portray in her kitchen area while her youngsters had been at university. But that all adjusted with the concept. 

It was Richard Prince. He required to acquire a person of her works.

Figgis was shocked. “I did not assume it was the serious Richard Prince,” she stated. 

Genieve Figgis, Untitled (Lady with a Dog) (2013). Courtesy Susan Barrett.

Genieve Figgis, Untitled (Lady with a Dog) (2013). Courtesy Susan Barrett.

Her suspicion was understandable. Prince’s on the internet persona, like his personal work, is slippery you are by no means fairly sure what is general performance and what is genuine. But by the sound of it, their exchange was pleasantly straightforward—even if Figgis, who at that position experienced under no circumstances bought a work of artwork prior to, didn’t know how substantially to cost. (She declined to share the variety they settled on.)

Prince walked away with Lady with a chook (2013), a painting that technically depicts precisely what its title implies, but in common Figgis vogue, conveys much more. The artwork’s titular figure appears ghostly and crude, as if committed to canvas by a child with a established of drugstore watercolors. Absent are shadows, gradients, and all those people other Artwork 101 procedures. It is all wide strokes, virtually, with swathes of pink paint forming a blanched woman experience, and a cluster of white dabs coalescing into a toothy grin. 

The entire factor is concurrently funny and haunting, the way a doll can be the two harmless plaything and horror-film villain. Figgis understands that uncanny terrain better than most. It is the position from which she’s built an remarkable career due to the fact that information from Prince eight years in the past, scoring a title-brand name gallery, lofty gross sales benefits, and a great deal of favorable testimonials together the way.

Her not too long ago shut exhibition at Almine Rech’s New York outpost, in which costs ranged from $50,000 to $175,000, bought out, even though her 2019 painting Marriage Bash went for around $500,000 at Phillips Hong Kong final December, close to five situations its large estimate. Since her perform 1st strike the auction block in 2018, it has created more than $10 million, according to the Artnet Price Databases.

Genieve Figgis, <i>Reflection</i> (2021). © Genieve Figgis. Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Dan Bradica.

Genieve Figgis, Reflection (2021). © Genieve Figgis. Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Dan Bradica.

Born in Dublin in 1972, Figgis did not grow up around artwork. The only paintings she understood ended up the Baroque-era knock-offs that adorned family mantles and faculty partitions in her Catholic neighborhood.

She didn’t take a look at a museum until eventually she was 19. By that issue, she experienced foregone higher education and married her secondary-college sweetheart her two children were being just a few of many years absent.

If that’s an unusual backstory for a key artist, it’s specifically surprising for Figgis, whose perform now feels as while it emerged from a marinade of artwork-historical hits. Her paintings regularly replicate the glimpse and truly feel of eras past—Rococo and Romanticism are beloved entry points—only to deconstruct the folly of it all. In Figgis’s earth, the stately manors, plush gardens, and ruffled apparel of the genteel class melt into just one another, flattened and stripped of grace. 

She “favors rich hues that bubble, ooze, and marbleize as if alive,” New York Periods critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2014, on the celebration of Figgis’s to start with solo outing at the star-creating 50 {99d7ae7a5c00217be62b3db137681dcc1ccd464bfc98e9018458a9e2362afbc0} Gallery in New York. Smith as opposed Figgis’s work—”full of daffy but spectral creatures and leering ghouls with best hats and canes”—to that of Goya, Karen Kilimnik, and George Apartment.

Genieve Figgis, Pink Phase (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

One painting highlighted in Smith’s evaluation, The Swing Right after Fragonard (2014), typifies the artist’s signature fashion. An homage to Fragonard’s 18th-century masterpiece, Figgis’s edition takes the impossible depth of the original and turns it all mushy, flirting with—but under no circumstances indulging in—full-on camp. “The lavishly gowned woman looks to be a skeleton,” Smith concluded. “She also could be below drinking water.”

That is typically the perception with which Figgis leaves us. It’s as if any individual spilled a glass of h2o on a stack of history’s finest portraits, leaving them to dry as diluted versions of their former selves—which is really not far from how the artist works. Liquid performs a key part in Figgis’s approach she pours it on to the canvas as she goes, permitting gravity do as a lot operate as her brush does. 

In describing her tactic, Figgis recalled a vivid desire she experienced as a child about dwelling in a household wherever every single area was crammed with a diverse coloured liquid. It is not tough to take pleasure in its resonance with her artistic initiatives right now. “I imagine the desire was a premonition of how I get the job done now, in a studio that is a property, and in every single place, I am performing on different paintings and pouring liquid paints,” she explained. 

Genieve Figgis. Photo: Doreen Kilfeather. Courtesy of the artist.

Genieve Figgis. Photograph: Doreen Kilfeather. Courtesy of the artist.

In her 20s, Figgis’s power was subsumed by her purpose as mother. Although she hadn’t but devoted herself to painting, she discovered other innovative shops. “I was cooking, baking, generating children’s costumes,” she recalled. “It was a really inventive property just like how it was for me rising up.”

Figgis went back again to school when she was 30, at minimum a decade wiser than most of her fellow students at the Gorey College of Artwork in Wexford, Ireland. “It was my lifelong dream to go to artwork faculty, but I just did not get the option till then,” she explained. Right after her bachelor’s diploma came the master’s plan in Dublin, and it was there that she really fell for artwork heritage, borrowing textbooks by the stack from the university library.

Though the white, male painters that she analyzed sought perfection, Figgis produced a model that embraced chaos and modify. “I take pleasure in doing the job with paint that has no confirmed end result or shape,” she discussed.

Immediately after their fateful Twitter trade, Prince bought a couple of a lot more paintings, exhibited them at his bookstore-slash-gallery Fulton Ryder, and even posted the artist’s to start with reserve. “I was ready to shell out off my college or university debt,” Figgis recalled. “I was capable to leave my section-time shop task that paid out me €10 an hour. I was earning only €200 a week [at the time].” 

The momentum led to other displays in London and New York and later on to representation by supplier Almine Rech, to whom Prince introduced her. For Figgis, the assistance was transformational—as it would be for any artist, kitchen area-based mostly or not. Prince was her to start with collector in 2014 he’s her greatest collector nowadays. (The artist did not respond to a ask for for comment.) 

Genieve Figgis, Fashion Shoot (2021). © Genieve Figgis. Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Dan Bradica.

Genieve Figgis, Vogue Shoot (2021). © Genieve Figgis. Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Image: Dan Bradica.

Figgis has arrive a long way considering that those early kitchen days. For 1 issue, she now operates out of a focused developing on the Irish coast, her young children out of faculty and on their own (although her son sometimes will help out in the studio). Her operate has been obtained by global collectors and establishments together with the Beirut-based mostly Tony Salamé, the Nanjing-based Lu Jun, the Pérez Artwork Museum Miami, and the Sensible Museum in Chicago.

“Genieve is a very beneficial person and she seriously wants to take pleasure in her work and share these feelings with the public—that’s pretty critical to her,” said Almine Rech director Gwenvael Launay, who’s worked with Figgis considering that she joined the gallery in 2015.

While the artist’s profile has expanded, even so, her artistic focus has crystallized. Instead than observing and lampooning the absurdity of art background, she’s actively trying to rewrite it—and her variation attributes a ton much more strong girls.

“In the Rococo-design and style paintings, I wanted to recreate the pre-groundbreaking world,” she claimed of her most up-to-date body of get the job done. Alternatively than “just female bodies to gaze upon,” her female subjects “are enjoying the position and possessing entertaining them selves. They are the stars of the paintings.” 

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