It takes courage for an artist to leave a powerful, multi-national gallery like Gagosian, particularly after 15 years during which your star has risen from a talented 29-year-old unknown to an established name.
But, the British painter Cecily Brown has done just that, departing Gagosian in April last year to join the smaller but respected London gallery Thomas Dane last summer. On 10 June, the gallery opened their first show of Brown’s paintings and drawings, 'Cecily Brown: Madrepora'. Brown has lived and worked in New York since she moved there as a 26-year-old, a devoted painter escaping the conceptual focus of London’s YBA’s in the mid-1990s.
Although still happily settled in Manhattan, as she smiles proudly around the gallery as final touches are applied the day before the opening, it's hard not to see that this is a homecoming show.
Brown clearly revels in the sheer handling of paint and, through its many, reworked layers, has a restless virility. The body remains central and fleshy forms slowly reveal themselves out of the many layers. There’s a strong sense of narrative too, although the precise subject often remains elusive, more a memory of her original inspiration.
The show takes over both of the gallery’s spaces on Duke Street, each room mixing recent works with older paintings and drawings from the past two decades, kept by the artist. As gallery director François Chantala observes, although Brown’s work is 'constantly shifting,' the layers becoming 'more translucent and the palette more muted' in recent paintings. They’re united by a handful of recurrent themes such as the body, heaven and hell, and draw repeatedly on art historical references. Brown’s admiration of Rembrandt, of French 18th-century painters and Velázquez and Goya, to name a few, touches many.
It’s a rare treat to see Brown’s drawings hung alongside the paintings. These deft delicate ink sketches, often studies of Old Master paintings, are rarely shown and, far from playing second fiddle to the paintings, they’re one of the highlights of the show. Brown’s skill as a draughtsman is about to gain further recognition with a solo exhibition titled 'Rehearsal' opening this October at New York’s Drawing Center.
With the move to Thomas Dane, Brown has spoken of her wish to 'recontextualise' her work as she enters another stage of her career and the intimacy of the two spaces, the collaborative process of putting together the exhibition, does just that.
’Cecily Brown: Madrepora’ will be view until 23 July at Thomas Dane Gallery in London. For more information visit the Thomas Dane website
Thomas Dane Gallery, 3 & 11 Duke Street St James's, London SW1Y 6BN
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Hedi Slimane creates second Celine dog collection to outfit and amuse your pet
The second Celine dog collection is revealed in an Hedi Slimane-shot photo series, starring the designer’s canine companion Elvis and some royal friends
By Jack Moss Published
Contemporary photographers making great leaps are united in London show
‘From a Common Gesture’ at London’s 10 14 Gallery, curated by Wallpaper*, unites 11 contemporary photographers working at the forefront of their field
By Sophie Gladstone Published
Byredo holiday collection draws inspiration from Wim Wenders and Georgia O’Keefe
Byredo’s creative image director Lucia Pica speaks to Wallpaper* in an exclusive interview, revealing her off-kilter design process
By Mary Cleary Published
The best London art exhibitions to see now
Your guide to the best London art exhibitions, as chosen by the Wallpaper* arts desk
By Hannah Silver Published
All eyes on Christina Quarles, the painter inventing a new figurative language
Los Angeles-based artist Christina Quarles is in her element, with two major solo shows underway at Hamburger Bahnhof and Hauser & Wirth Menorca
By Emily McDermott Published
Portraits of dogs: new Wallace Collection show is pooch perfect
‘Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney’ at the Wallace Collection (until 15 October) offers paws for thought on the human devotion to dogs throughout the centuries
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Published
Gavin Turk: ‘My art is always other people's art’
We interview British artist Gavin Turk, whose show ‘Kerze’ (candle) at Ben Brown Fine Arts is an ode to Gerhard Richter’s candle painting, with an uncanny twist
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Published
An art history of Château Mouton Rothschild wine labels, from Lucian Freud and Niki de Saint Phalle to Peter Doig
We take a closer look at Château Mouton Rothschild’s 2020 vintage label designed by artist Peter Doig and look back on the house’s fruitful history of artist collaborations
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Last updated
Faith Ringgold on capturing the complexity of the American experience: ‘It takes courage to be free’
We interview Faith Ringgold, whose major retrospective exhibition ‘American People’ runs until 27 November at the de Young Musuem, San Francisco
By Aindrea Emelife Published
Rashid Johnson in Menorca: a journey through migration, longing and togetherness
We visited Rashid Johnson’s Brooklyn studio ahead of the artist’s show at Hauser & Wirth Menorca, which contemplates drift – physical and emotional
By Osman Can Yerebakan Published
Remembering Pierre Soulages (1919-2022), a pioneer of post-war abstraction
Pierre Soulages, the pioneering French printmaker, sculptor and ‘painter of black’, has died aged 102
By Diane Theunissen Published