Angel Otero, a painter whose abstractions draw on recent art history and his memories of his childhood in Puerto Rico, has joined Hauser & Wirth, one of the world’s top galleries. Through the new arrangement, Otero will leave Lehmann Maupin, which has shown him for over a decade, and Vielmetter, which has shown him for almost as long. He will have his first Hauser & Wirth show within the next year.
Otero’s paintings are often created so that they appear torn, smeared, or in other ways distressed. The artist paints using what he calls “skins,” or layers that are allowed to partially dry before Otero rips pieces off or scrapes away at them. While much of Otero’s best-known works seem entirely non-representational, he has introduced figural imagery in the past few years, in a move that has coincided with an introspective turn toward the artist’s upbringing. In 2017, his paintings were the subject of a survey at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
In an interview, Marc Payot, a president of Hauser & Wirth, called Otero’s works “Gabriel García Márquez in painting,” adding, “On one level, it’s very personal work, really referring to his own history growing up in Puerto Rico, the objects that he encounters in his home, the memories of his mom. But also, when you look at these paintings, they’re also very formal.”
Otero splits his time between New York and Puerto Rico, where he was born in 1981. In joining Hauser & Wirth, he will become one of the few Puerto Rico–based artists to be represented by a mega-gallery.
The representation also comes as Otero’s market grows rapidly. In the month of June 2021 alone, Otero’s auction record was re-set three times. That record, set by the sale of his painting Acis and Galatea (2013) at Phillips in New York, now stands at $277,000; that painting had originally been expected to sell for just $25,000–$35,000. (Payot said he was unaware of these records, and that they didn’t contribute to the gallery’s decision to start representing Otero.)
Asked about what excites him about Otero’s work, Payot mentioned the connections one could make between Otero and other artists represented by the gallery—one is Jack Whitten, who was a friend of Otero. Payot also said, “It’s very strong painting, and that’s so difficult to find today.”
Correction, 2/4/22, 9:20 a.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Jack Whitten was Otero’s teacher. He was his friend, not his teacher.