Painter Anna Weyant’s story sounds like a modern-day art fairytale, and in the pens of some quarters, it reads like one. Just five years after she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, her paintings are already selling for more than $1 million at auction—sometimes at several times the estimated price.
Weyant’s paintings, with their dark hues and highlighted sheen of opulence, depicting at once stark and quotidian scenes of young women managing the joys and indignities of adolescence. Per ARTnews‘ Alex Greenberger, her influences range from 17th-century Dutch Old Masters to more contemporary artists like John Currin.
“Imagine Botticelli as a millennial, whose porcelain-skin beauties also pop one leg high like the Victoria Beckham meme or sport gold necklaces that read, ‘Ride or Die,'” the Wall Street Journal‘s Kelly Crow writes.
In May, Weyant became the youngest artist currently represented by world-renowned Gagosian Gallery, according to ARTnews‘ Alex Greenberger. (She is also dating the gallery’s founder, Larry Gagosian, and their relationship has been the subject of art world gossip.) Her paintings—she has created roughly 50—have been displayed in exhibitions in several American cities, and she’s received top placement at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, according to the Daily Beast‘s Helen Holmes.
“I first caught wind of Anna Weyant last summer,” Lucius Elliott auction, head of the Sotheby’s Now Evening, tell the Daily Beast. “There was clearly a lot of appetite in the market for the works. They were very hard to access at a primary level; the show had sold out.”
But art critics like Jerry Saltz, who first posted some of Weyant’s pieces to his Instagram in 2019, worry about the speed of her ascent, considering the volatile whims of the art world.
“The art world loves to devour its young,” Saltz tells the Wall Street Journal. “It can be difficult to paint with another voice in your head whispering numbers and prices, but maybe she can.”
Weyant didn’t aspire all her life to be a world-renowned artist; it just sort of happened. She grew up in Calgary, Canada, but she wanted to be in New York. She enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design because it was the closest school to the city that accepted her, per the Wall Street Journal. The summer after her freshman year, she entered a contest with the National Gallery of Canada, where she placed in the top three. By the next year, she was painting young women and girls.
“Being new, confused and homesick in a new country, I was just scared,” Weyant tells the Wall Street Journal. “I remember thinking that if I could transfer my fears to the woman I was painting, at least I had another person in the conversation with me.”
At first, Weyant’s paintings found fame on Instagram, where critics like Saltz propelled her work to even larger audiences. Through some well-timed connections, she held her first solo exhibition at the New York gallery 56 Henry in 2019. Every piece in the show sold at between $2,000 and $12,000, a fraction of what they might now yield.
Looking ahead, Weant is preparing for an upcoming solo show at the Gagosian this fall. Her style is shifting, the Wall Street Journal writes, and her subjects are now “taking up bigger canvases and sporting ruby lips and ponytails.” She’s watching Lifetime movies for research. All the while, the art world remains engrossed, watching her.