The self portraits of French-American artist Anh Duong are characterised by her piercing gaze. They contemplate the complex and intensely private relationship between the self and the contemporary world.Read More
Born to a Vietnamese father and Spanish mother, Anh Duong recalled growing up in France with a sense of displacement and alienation. Her ethnicity, however, also made her feel like she 'belonged everywhere', as the artist told Indigo Clarke in 2014. Her background has been influential on her engagement with the arts to express herself.
Duong has always maintained a close relationship with the arts. She studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and then dance at the Franchetti Academy of Classical Dance. Debuting as a model in 1986, she worked with designers John Galliano, Donna Karan, and Christian Lacroix, among others. She also starred in several films. Anh began to paint seriously in the late 1980s upon settling in New York, where she was encouraged to paint by her then-boyfriend, painter Julian Schnabel, and her artist friends.
Anh Duong is most well-known for her self portraits, although she considers every artwork to be a self portrait. Often occupying much of the canvas, Duong gazes straight out at the viewer—or into the mirror that she employs for her self portraiture—to create both a confrontational and voyeuristic experience. Ultimately, however, Duong's self-portraits are an intense engagement with herself, whether biking outside in Louise Point (2010) or applying lipstick before the bathroom mirror in Trou de memoire (Lost Memories) (2011). Painting on a daily basis, she considers her works to be a visual diary.
The assortment of objects associated with make-up and fashion in Anh Duong's still lifes suggests a relationship between a woman's self-image and consumerist culture. Paintings are often paired with witty titles. These include There is a Loneliness in the Group, which sees a lone pair of heels strewn at the bottom of a fully occupied shoe rack, and How to Make Love to the Same Person for the Rest of Your Life and Still Love it, a still life featuring a croissant on a plate next to an open purse (both 2008).
In her portraits, Anh Duong captures her subjects with the same intense gaze as her self portraits. Her sitters have included celebrities and well-known figures of the art world, including actress Angelica Huston, model Natalia Vodianova, and designer Diane von Furstenberg.
Duong has also sculpted portrait busts in bronze. She has produced busts for celebrity hair stylist Frédéric Fekkai and gallerist Helena Barquet, and in 2006 was commissioned to create a figurehead of von Furstenberg for a yacht. She was also invited to sculpt 50 stars for the Statue of Liberty Museum in New York, which opened in 2019.
Anh Duong has held numerous solo exhibitions, including La Tentation d'Exister. There is always Champagne in the Fridge, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich (2021); Can You See Me, Robilant+Voena, London (2014); Anh Duong, Sonnabend Gallery, New York (2011); and Flowers, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris (2005).
Selected group exhibitions include About Face, ACME, Los Angeles (2012); Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress, Pace Beijing (2011); The Female Gaze: Women Look at Women, Cheim and Read, New York (2009).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021