How Chloe Wise Went from Viral Sensation to Art Market Star
Chloe Wise, American Classic, 2015. Photo by Paul Litherland. Courtesy of the artist and Blouin Division.
Portrait of Chloe Wise attending the Acne Studios Menswear Spring/Summer 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 19, 2019. Photo by Vanni Bassetti for Acne Studios. Image via Getty Images.
Chloe Wise’s artworks are full of things that rot, leak, decay, wrinkle, and otherwise perish, but her current market shows no sign of a pending expiration date. Less than a decade after graduating from college, the 30-year-old artist’s wry homages to millennial culture have already been celebrated in solo and group gallery shows and a single-artist museum exhibition, and are now entering the secondary market. Wise’s critiques of consumer culture—installations of butter melting on a glass block plinth, paintings of Lactaid milk, and sculpted plastic pancakes—are being consumed at an increasingly gluttonous pace.
“She explores themes that are easily understood and relatable to us all, such as gender and queerness, the impact of social media on portraiture and how we see things, the relationship our generation has with the body,” said Ashkan Baghestani, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s, where a Wise diptych sold for a record-setting price at the auction house’s “Contemporary Curated” sale in New York this March. Added Almine Rech, of the eponymous international gallery co-representing Wise: “The way she paints and who she paints cannot be done at any period different than now. When you see it, you can’t say, ‘Oh, from when is it?’ It is so much about nowadays, and I love that.”
Wise’s of-the-moment works may have a long shelf life, though, as she has quickly become a high-profile darling among gallerists, curators, collectors, and fashion brands. Recent interest in the Canadian-born artist’s work has been fueled by her first museum solo show at Denmark’s HEART museum in 2019 and, this year, a solo gallery show at Almine Rech’s New York space. Wise’s works also currently feature in “Fantasy America,” a group show at the Andy Warhol Museum.
Everything started for Wise, plainly enough, with a sesame bagel. Just a year after earning her BFA from Montreal’s Concordia University in 2013, she made her art world entrée: a urethane sculpture pretending to be a bagel sandwich pretending to be a Chanel purse. It was part of her “Bread Bags” series in which she branded faux pastries with designer hardware. Wise loaned Bagel Bag No. 5 (2014) from the series to her friend, Bobbi Salvör Menuez, who wore the cheeky handbag to an exclusive party celebrating Chanel’s signature perfume. Media coverage of the accessory went viral, and once people learned it was designed by Wise (and not Karl Lagerfeld), she had the art world’s attention.
Chloe Wise, installation view of “Not That We Don’t” at Almine Rech, London, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech.
Bagel Bag No. 5 epitomized a millennial fixation with branding and posturing—a consistent theme across Wise’s paintings, sculptures, installations, and video works, whose titles read like Instagram captions (a platform where the artist has a devoted 191,000-plus followers). Her work also pokes fun at what’s real and what isn’t, with her frequent portraits of friends mimicking the types of deadpan, stylized selfies that her generation typically posts to social media.
“She doesn’t take herself so seriously, like many other artists who are deadly serious,” said Suzanne Landau, former director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and co-founder of Tel Aviv’s Nassima Landau art space, where Wise’s paintings were featured in a group show last month and acquired by local collectors. “She is serious about her art, but she’s doing it in such a playful and surprising way.”
Chloe Wise, Moschino English Muffin, 2015. Photo by Paul Litherland. Courtesy of the artist and Blouin Division.
Wise’s irreverent work started entering significant collections the year her bagel bag surfaced. When the artist collective Bruce High Quality Foundation hosted the 2014 edition of its take on the Whitney Biennial, the “Brucennial,” she exhibited Star of Larry David (2013)—a six-pointed Jewish star fashioned from urethane strips resembling decidedly nonkosher bacon. It was acquired on opening night by collectors Erin and Paul Pariser (Paul being a co-president of the Aspen Art Museum).
By 2015, Wise’s video work attracted the attention of British collector Anita Zabludowicz and curator David Gryn, who commissioned her to create six original and limited-edition video works for the digital art platform they co-created, Daata Editions. Wise’s works on the platform include she’s so talented (2015), three editions of which sold on the first day they were available; every edition has since sold. The roughly one-minute video tracks a woman drinking Red Bull and dancing in a crop top in Boca Raton, Florida, accompanied by a soundtrack of conversations Wise overheard at the 2014 Art Basel in Miami Beach fair. The remaining five works Wise made for Daata Editions are still available on the platform, priced at $1,000 each.
Wise’s rising profile and market value have been cultivated by the three galleries representing her: Almine Rech; Blouin Division in Montreal; and Galerie Sébastien Bertrand in Geneva. Almine Rech began representing Wise in 2017 and hosted a solo show for the artist at its French outpost that year, with prices ranging between $10,000 and $25,000. The following year the gallery exhibited her painting What to do with all this future? (2017) at Art Basel in Hong Kong, where it sold for $35,000. Four years later, prices for Wise’s large-scale paintings at Almine Rech have more than tripled, with figures reaching the $90,000 mark at her recent solo showing at the gallery’s New York location.
On Artsy, interest in Wise’s work started gaining momentum in 2017, then surged in 2019, when the number of collectors inquiring about her work on the platform nearly doubled year on year. Currently, 2021 is on pace to be far and away her biggest year on Artsy.
Rech noted that Wise’s most sought-after paintings tend to be her food paintings and group portraits. “It’s always about two or three people in the same painting, with very important color research,” Rech said. “The way the models are dressed is very important, it also shows our time very precisely because we know some clothes are really from one moment.” This trendiness is exemplified in La Riviera (2019), a painting that French fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus commissioned Wise to paint as an advertisement for his spring/summer 2019 campaign.
“I participate in trends,” Wise told Vogue in 2016. “You can’t avoid certain things because it’s not even a choice that you make. It’s just a part of how you live your life. You’re permeable to what’s around you.”
Wise overtly fused art and apparel in February 2020, when she launched a capsule collection called “Museum” in collaboration with Paris-based fashion brand Études. The garments are imprinted with details from her paintings, and prices range between €350 and €650 ($417–$774). Wise donned the line’s 100 percent viscose kimono-style robe to the opening of Miami’s Rubell Museum in December 2019 in a comical act of self-promotion (perhaps hoping to interest mega-collectors Don and Mera Rubell in acquiring her work, since they haven’t yet).
Chloe Wise, installation view of “Cats Not Fighting Is A Horrible Sound As Well” at Blouin Division, Montreal, 2016–17. Photo by Paul Litherland. Courtesy of the artist and Blouin Division.
Chloe Wise, You would have been a Castle for a Moment, 2016. Photo by Paul Litherland. Courtesy of the artist and Blouin Division.
This year, Wise had a solo show at Almine Rech in New York, where she lives and works. She exhibited mostly paintings, save for some sculptures of blocks of butter and hyperrealistic Caesar salad–inspired light fixtures, complete with croutons and a creamy dressing. “The work itself is very sensual, witty, surprising, unexpected. Almost on the verge of surreal,” noted Landau. “I think she’s now in a period of lettuce and butter.”
Wise’s well-received gallery show opened just a few weeks before her secondary-market debut for an oil painting, at Sotheby’s New York salesroom in March 2021. Her diptych I was dating two tauruses at the same time, they were so different (2015) exceeded its high estimate of $70,000 and sold for $94,500. Last year a print by Wise also performed well at auction, when Gluten Freedom (2017) sold for £6,930 ($9,000) at Phillips in November 2020, far exceeding its high estimate of £1,200 ($1,560).
Chloe Wise, I was dating two tauruses at the same time, they were so different, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Sébastien Bertrand.
“There was a strong depth of bidding for Chloe’s painting, particularly from our clients in the U.S. and Asia, which is always a great indication of an artist’s desirability across the globe,” Baghestani said about the Sotheby’s sale. Rech noted that Wise’s collectors tend to be established and based in the United States, Belgium, and beyond. Among the institutional collections that hold her work are influential collector Julia Stoschek’s namesake foundation in Germany, the ICA Miami, the National Gallery of Canada, and L.A.’s Hammer Museum.
Baghestani is already on the lookout for Wise artworks to include in future auctions, noting that “Chloe is without a doubt one to keep a close eye on.”