Hilary Pecis, whose vibrant still life paintings have attracted a loyal market following, will now be represented by David Kordansky gallery in Los Angeles. The gallery will showcase her work at Art Basel this week. A solo show with the gallery will take place in 2023.
The Los Angeles–based artist’s work is sought after by collectors. Her still lifes feature vibrant fabrics and richly colored flowers; palm trees can sometimes be seen in the distance. Because they flatten domestic spaces, these paintings have drawn comparisons to David Hockney. Pecis has cited German Expressionists like Gabriele Münter and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, as well as the Fauvist Édouard Vuillard, Funk artist Roy de Forest, and figurative painter Joan Brown, as being among her influences.
The art market is something Pecis knows a good deal about, given that she worked as a registrar at David Kordansky for five years before becoming an full-time artist. In March 2019, she left to focus on her studio practice. “I was trying to figure out any way to keep one foot in the gallery,” Pecis said.
Mike Homer, a partner at David Kordansky, said Pecis’s journey from gallery staffer to star artist is relatively unusual. “It’s never happened in the 11 years I’ve been here,” he noted, adding that her work as “became much stronger” after leaving the gallery world. “The growth was noticeable in a relatively short amount of time.” Pecis also has one more unusual connection to the gallery: her studio is in the same building as Ruby Neri, who is also represented by David Kordansky.
This past May, Pecis was featured in the gallery’s group show “The Beatitudes of Malibu,” which also included work by Jennifer Guidi and Agnes Martin, both of whom are more widely known than Pecis. But it was Pecis’s work that outpaced expectations. Her painting Gabrielino (2021) sold in advance of the exhibition’s opening, and Homer said that the number of inquiries the gallery received for the work shocked staff. The painting eventually went to a collection in Europe.
Despite the notice her work received from that exhibition, Pecis thought David Kordansky wouldn’t end up taking her on. “It just didn’t seem possible,” she said with a note of surprise.
In the past two years, Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York and Timothy Taylor in London—both of whom also represent Pecis—have staged sold-out solo shows for the artist. On the secondary market, prices for Pecis’s work are skyrocketing. In May, a 2016 painting depicting two cats in a garden sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $225,400 (HKD 1.75 million), more than double its high estimate of $64,300 HKD (500,000). Then, in July, her landscape painting Backyard View (2018), depicting a sunset and palm trees, sold at a Sotheby’s contemporary art day sale for £340,000 ($470,200), 17 times the low estimate of £20,000 ($27,600).
Collectors in China are a driving force for her market. Following a solo exhibition at Bejing’s Spurs gallery in 2020, collectors with private museums in the region have added her works to their collections. Her paintings now reside at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, the Zhuzhong Museum in Beijing, and the Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, among others.
Suddenly, Pecis, who was once behind the scenes at the gallery, is now in the spotlight at her former employer. “We have this saying that we work for the artists we represent,” Homer said. “She used to work for us. Now, we work for her.”