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b. 1969, United Kingdom

Cecily Brown Biography

British-born painter Cecily Brown has garnered international attention for her sensual and colourful oil paintings that often blur the boundary between the figurative and the abstract. Their inspiration fluctuates from chance and improvisation to art historical and pop culture imagery.

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Born in London and raised in Surrey, Cecily Brown is the daughter of novelist Shena Mackay and art critic David Sylvester. From an early age, she developed a strong interest in art.

Brown studied under British painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling before attending the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Although she graduated from the Slade in the early 1990s, Brown did not align with the conceptually driven, anti-painting stance of the Young British Artist group that were rising to prominence in London at the time.

Instead, in 1994 she moved to New York where she had once spent six months as an exchange student. There, she joined ranks with artists like John Currin and Nicole Eisenman, working to revitalise figurative painting with new energy and critical significance.

Cecily Brown's artworks are not firmly planted in the figurative tradition, however. Instead, they fluctuate in the hazy area between figuration and abstraction, their elements engaged in visual conflict. As she explained to Jackie Wullschläger of the Financial Times, 'My natural state is being torn.'

There is a sense of fluidity and a state of flux in her works. She paints in a visual shorthand of expressive brushstrokes and vivid pulsating colour, referencing influential Western artists ranging from Reubens and Veronese to de Kooning and Bacon, punctuated with instances of clarity.

Exploring the boundary between the figurative and the abstract, Brown experiments to see just how little visual information is needed for the human eye and mind to discern an image. While the figurative component is readily identifiable in works such as Untitled (Blood Thicker Than Mud) (2012), in others, like Thriller (2009) or Jicky (2009–2010), the mind is put to strain to see beyond the kaleidoscope of colour and painterly marks.

Sexual energy and eroticism are a core part of many of Cecily Brown's paintings, including her earlier works of the 1990s, based around luridly coloured graphic oil paintings of rabbits, and her later works, depicting human figures engaged in orgiastic scenes. The underlying sources of these images and compositions, however, vary from art historical examples to pop culture.

The artist's process of image-making is slow and drawn out. She consistently works with several canvases in progress at the same time around her studio. Moving between them, the artist ensures motifs organically flow across multiple works. Brown works and reworks her paintings over several years, adding to their visual conflict as her fluctuating style contends with itself.

Highly sought after, Brown is one of only a few living female artists whose work is valued in the seven-figure range. Cecily Brown's art has been presented in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and institutions around the world. In 2018, she exhibited two large paintings in the main hall of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, an opportunity last afforded to the artist Marc Chagall in 1966.

Cecily Brown's artworks feature in major public collections in the United States, Britain, and Europe; among them, New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hamburg's Deichtorhallen, Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Torino, Italy, and the Tate Modern in London.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Cecily Brown Featured Artworks

All Nights Are Days by Cecily Brown contemporary artwork
Cecily BrownAll Nights Are Days, 2019Oil on linen
226.1 x 246.4 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work

Cecily Brown Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, New Images of Man at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Closed
1 February–14 March 2020 Group Exhibition New Images of Man Blum & PoeLos Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, cart, horse, cart at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
20 June–17 August 2019 Group Exhibition cart, horse, cart Lehmann Maupin501 West 24th Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, cart, horse, cart at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
20 June–17 August 2019 Group Exhibition cart, horse, cart Lehmann Maupin536 West 22nd Street, New York

Cecily Brown Represented By

Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul
Thomas Dane Gallery contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Thomas Dane Gallery London, Naples

Cecily Brown In Related Press

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Piers 92 and 94 to Stand Out at the Armory Show Related Press Piers 92 and 94 to Stand Out at the Armory Show 12 January 2017, The New York Times

Keen to distinguish the Armory Show, which is facing competition from almost 300 other contemporary art fairs around the world, the New York art fair’s executive director, Benjamin Genocchio, is playing up the gritty industrial space of Piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River. For the fair’s 2017 edition, which runs from March 2 through March 5, the...

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Cecily Brown at Drawing Centre, New York Related Press Cecily Brown at Drawing Centre, New York 6 January 2017, Art in America

The title of Cecily Brown’s exhibition at the Drawing Center, Rehearsal, was intended to reflect the meaning of the Old French version of the term. Rehercier, a wall text instructed, meant 'to go over something again with the aim of more fully understanding it,' rather than, as 'rehearse' currently denotes, to practice for a crowning performance....

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'The last taboo is the penis': John Cheim on 'The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men' at Cheim & Read Related Press 'The last taboo is the penis': John Cheim on 'The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men' at Cheim & Read 10 August 2016, ARTNews

The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men,  a group show that runs at Cheim & Read through September 2, is as ambitious in scope as it is in ideology, showcasing work by a wide range of artists–including Tracey Emin, Alice Neel, Diane Arbus, and Jenny Holzer–who have applied a nontraditional lens to viewing and depicting...

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What do women see: 'The Female Gaze' Related Press What do women see: 'The Female Gaze' 5 August 2016, Whitewall

Currently on display at Cheim & Read is a look at men from the perspective of 32 female artists. The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men  is the second half of a two-part exhibition at the Chelsea gallery. The first debuted in 2009 titled Women Look At Women.  This latest exhibition offers multiple portrayals of men...

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