CJ Hendry on Making Art Outside the Gallery System
Hendry's first public art project, HOOPS Tree, will open in Miami on 6 December.
CJ Hendry, HOOPS Tree (2023). Digital render. Courtesy the artist.
With no formal art training, Australian hyperrealist artist Catherine Jenna Hendry built a strong following on social media. She sells work directly from her Instagram, where she now has over 743,000 followers.
A crumpled Gucci shopping bag for U.S. $50,000, and her collectors include Kanye West and Vera Wang.
In August, she partnered with Phillips when the auction house launched its Dropshop initiative, selling editioned works.
Now, Hendry is branching out with her first public art project, a 20 foot-tall palm tree sculpture that features 34 basketball hoops. Located in Miami's Wynwood art district, anyone who sinks a shot in all of the baskets without missing before 9 December will win $1 million.
How did your HOOPS Tree commission come about?
I have been keen to pursue public art for quite some time. It's not as easy as saying 'ok let's make public art today.' It's been many, many months of back and forth conversations and meetings and then a bam someone says yes and then it's a go ahead. HOOPS has been a concept I have been percolating for years and finally I have the opportunity to showcase the concept in collaboration with Miami City council.
The work is a beautiful blue palm tree of basketball hoops made for Miami. On insta you said it was 'fucking hard to execute'. What were the challenges?
I'm not going to bore you with the laborious red tape involved with a public art installation of this magnitude. Nor do I want to deep dive into the hurdles we have encountered. Just know they have been vast and very very expensive and more shocking than you can imagine. When you eventually see the tree in the ground just take one second to appreciate its beauty and the energy it took from hundreds of different people in order to make this dream come to life.
How do you hope people engage with the work?
The goal is to never expect anyone to interact in any particular way. Whenever I build a concept I just make it and then what will be will be. This is no different.
You were the first artist Phillips featured on their Dropshop platform, which features original commissions of collectible editioned works. The bronze crowns you made were inspired by your hyperrealistic paintings of inflatables. Were you worried that the crowns were in some way derivative of Jeff Koons' work?
It was such an honour to work with Phillips, what a wonderful team they have. It really was a pleasure to get the opportunity to work with them. If Jeff Koons had trademarked all inflatables ever made then I would be worried. If an artist who made dots or spots trademarked all circles then we would be in for some trouble.
As far as I know, you aren't currently represented by a gallery. Why not?
I'm not currently represented by a gallery. There is no right or wrong way to approach representation or lack thereof. We live in the wild world of the Internet, there are people who make videos on YouTube, there are people who dedicate their lives to TikTok. I don't know one artist who doesn't have an Instagram account. I am one of those artists with an Instagram account, I am no different to every other artist out there. I will certainly work with galleries in the future; I look forward to the next stage of that artistic experience. —[O]