Broad strokes: Stanley Whitney

April 27, 20223 min read
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Stanley Whitney is a rising art market star. Fresh off the heels of record breaking 2021 auction sales, the abstract painter’s work is currently on view at the Biennale Arte 2022 in Venice, Italy. 

As the Wall Street Journal reports, 50 of the abstract painter’s works will be displayed in Venice’s Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, a 16th-century palace. The show will span works he painted in Italy between 1992 and 2017 during early teaching stints in Rome and, later, at a farmhouse studio that he and his wife own near Parma. Many of the canvases and nearly all the sketchbooks in the show have never been seen publicly until now. Hailed by ArtNet as one of the “24 Shows to See in Venice Beyond the Biennale,” the show is presented by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, where a major retrospective of the artist’s work will be exhibited in spring 2024, and curated by Cathleen Chafee and Vincenzo de Bellis. “Stanley’s work gives out such intense and positive energy, and that’s exactly what people need now. . . [the Palazzo show] is going to be a magnet,” says Louise Neri, a director at Gagosian Gallery.

Though he hails from Philadelphia, the Biennale is in many ways a coming home for Whitney; the artist and his wife moved to Rome in 1992, after struggling to find his footing in the New York art scene. The move served as an artistic turning point for the artist, who was deeply inspired by the country’s rich cultural heritage, and he immediately immersed himself in its art and architecture. His bold and decidedly modern abstract paintings draw inspiration from ancient frescoes of Pompeii, Renaissance ceiling tiles, and even the Egyptian pyramids. Speaking of the impact these travels had on his work,  Whitney described, “I was afraid of suffocating the paintings with color, but Rome and Egypt told me I could line them up side by side, and I’d still have a feeling of air in them. Once I had that, I had everything I needed to paint. It felt amazing.”

Whitney’s work is also inspired by jazz music; Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew is often played on repeat in his studio, and his work has been compared to the repetitive yet dissonant nature of jazz. Hyperallergic notes “each canvas follows its own off-beat rhythm, with three or four horizontal bands dividing each square into quirky grids. Like a jazz player riffing on the same chord or melody, Whitney’s paintings delight in the infinite possibilities contained within a simple motif or process.” 

Despite his extensive career, Whitney’s recognition and success as an artist has escalated in recent years. In 2015, the Studio Museum in Harlem presented his first solo show in New York, Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange, which drew critical praise and was followed by commercial success at Gagosian and Lisson Galleries. Gagosian presented his first solo show in 2020, and in 2021 his oil painting Forward to Black, 1996, sold for $2.3M, a record for the artist and 12.7x its pre-sale auction estimate.

Endless Time, 2017, Collection of the Albright-Knox Gallery

Today, Whitney and his wife still enjoy summers in the artist’s Parma studio. Speaking to the Art Newspaper about the Venice exhibition, Whitney remarks dryly “I’ve done the work, and I’m not dead, so I can really appreciate the recognition as that magical city is coming back to life,” he says. “I just feel incredibly lucky being able to enjoy it.”

As buzz around the Venice exhibition grows, Whitney’s prominence and importance will continue to grow. Yieldstreet is proud to feature Whitney in Art Equity Fund III, providing our investors a front seat as Whitney’s star is rising.  

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Venice in the coming months, don’t miss Stanley Whitney’s The Italian Paintings, on view at the Palazzo Tiepolo Passi from April 23 April through November 27. 

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