Painter Dana Schutz, Whose Work Set Off Whitney Museum Controversy, Heads to David Zwirner

Dana Schutz, a painter whose bold figurations have in recent years drawn a mixture of bitter controversy and passionate acclaim, is now represented by the mega-gallery David Zwirner, which has locations in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong. Schutz comes to Zwirner from New York’s Petzel gallery, which has represented her since 2011. Prior to that, she showed with New York’s Zach Feuer gallery, which debuted her work in 2002.

A representative for Petzel confirmed the news, saying in a statement, “Petzel Gallery feels very fortunate to have worked with Dana Schutz for the past 10 years. During that time, we mounted three incredible solo exhibitions of her work, placing paintings in major museum collections and helping her attain worldwide status as one of the most recognized painters of her generation. Over the last decade, we worked together on nine survey museum exhibitions and collaborated on two catalogs and had a major career-spanning monograph in the works. Together we weathered the storm from the [2017] Whitney Biennial, which was a teachable moment that transformed the gallery.”

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Representatives for David Zwirner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Schutz’s work has proved polarizing over the past few years. In 2017, Schutz came under fire for Open Casket (2016), a painting based on a photograph of Emmett Till, a Black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. When it appeared in the Whitney Biennial, activists—including the artist Hannah Black—accused Schutz of capitalizing on Black pain, and called for the work’s removal and destruction. It remained in the exhibition, and Schutz said the painting was not for sale, but the effects of the controversy have endured.

In the years since Open Casket’s exhibition, many have continued to argue for the merits of Schutz’s figurations, which often offer up surreal, tense scenes, with allusions to art history laced throughout. New York Times co-chief art critic Roberta Smith was among those who praised Schutz’s last New York outing, at Petzel in 2018, calling the work “engrossing and perplexing.”

Schutz has had several solo museum shows at prominent institutions, and her paintings figure in the collections of museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney. In 2017, the same year Schutz appeared in the Whitney Biennial, she had a major survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Earlier this year, her work was included in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition “Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium,” where her paintings were shown alongside figurations by rising stars such as Christina Quarles, Tschabalala Self, and Michael Armitage.

The market for Schutz’s paintings has skyrocketed over the past decade. Her current auction record, set at Sotheby’s New York in May 2019 by her 2004 painting Civil Planning, stands at $2.4 million. The painting came from the collection of the late David Teiger. After the sale, Feuer told Artnet News that Teiger had initially told him he would be donating it to the Museum of Modern Art, where Teiger was a board member. Her painting Trump Descending an Escalator (2017), a widely scene painting lampooning the composition of a famous image of Donald Trump while also paying homage to Marcel Duchamp, will sell at Phillips in London this month.

Schutz has also previously shown with Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin and Thomas Dane Gallery in London, which opened a solo show of her work earlier this year. ARTnews has reached out to both galleries for comment.


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