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Kevans’s Irreverent Portraits Draw International Interest

In the past year, international interest in the work of young British painter Annie Kevans has been on the rise. Having been featured in a string of group shows—most recently “Encomium,” on view through the 24th of this month at the Fine Arts Society, London—last fall the artist joined FAS, the gallery’s contemporary-art branch.

In the past year, international interest in the work of young British painter Annie Kevans has been on the rise. Having been featured in a string of group shows—most recently “Encomium,” on view through the 24th of this month at the Fine Arts Society, London—last fall the artist joined FAS, the gallery’s contemporary-art branch. Last July, the Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, announced it now also represents Kevans; the gallery plans to hold its first solo exhibition of her paintings next February.

“Her shows tend to sell out pretty quickly,” Emily Dolan, of the Fine Art Society’s contemporary-art department, told ARTnewsletter. Kevans’s works currently sell for around $5,000 each. This fall, 12 new paintings will be on view at the gallery in the exhibition “Ship of Fools” (November 25–December 23), each measuring 15 by 19 inches and priced at £3,500 (about $5,700).

Kevans paints stylized unsolicited portraits on textured canvas-like paper made for oil paint and covered in wax. Her depictions can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable for her subjects: In 2007, Kevans was commissioned by Shehab Gargash, a property magnate in the United Arab Emirates, and his wife, Lamees Hamdan, to create portraits of U.A.E. president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The resulting paintings portrayed the men as beardless, sensitive-looking teenage boys, and ultimately were not presented to the sheikhs.

In 2004, British collector Charles Saatchi visited Kevans’s degree show at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, purchasing all 30 paintings from her series “Boys,” which portrays 20th-century despots as children. The artist is to be included in the exhibition “The Power of Paper” at the Saatchi Gallery, London, scheduled for next year. Last March, at the New York edition of the Volta Art Fair (ANL, 3/17/09), FAS sold all 41 paintings from “All the President’s Girls,” Kevans’s series of portraits of presidential mistresses including Monica Lewinsky and Marilyn Monroe.

“Her collectors are very international,” Caroline Dowling, director of the Perry Rubenstein Gallery, told ARTnewsletter. “She has a strong following in the U.K., as that is her base.” There has been no secondary-market activity for her work as yet.

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