How this young Canadian went from painting assistant to multimillion dollar New York art phenomenon

Three years ago, Anna Weyant’s paintings sold at an outdoor fair in the Hamptons for $450 each. In May, her ‘Falling Woman’ was auctioned for $1.6 million

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A 27-year-old Calgary-born painter touted as the New York art scene’s newest darling, a whirlwind on his way to fame.

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In late May, Anna Weyant’s painting “Falling Woman” sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $1.6 million, a multiple of its estimated value of $150,000 to $200,000. Weeks earlier, another oil painting, “Summertime,” fetched $1.2 million at Christie’s auction, while Buffet II, a 2021 painting, sold for $580,000 to a Hong Kong bidder at an auction at Phillips.

Three years ago, Weyant’s figurative drawings and paintings were laid out on blankets and cost $450 each at a “stunningly chill” art fair in the Hamptons, ARTnews reported.

Since the Long Island beach sale, three of Weyant’s solo shows have sold out, the Wall Street Journal in a long weekend profile compared her to “Botticelli as a millennial” and she was recently represented exclusively by the powerhouse Gagosian Gallery, whose 77-year-old founder, Larry Gagosian, is now dating Weyant.

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The romance and significant age difference have been the subject of some “snarky and jaded” comments, Weyants, professor of painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, told the WSJ (Weyant is a 2017 graduate of the school). Last August, the couple was spotted on the beaches of St. Tropez.

“She’s intelligent and has a reservation in the Midwest, and she doesn’t speak all the art jargon,” Gagosian told the WSJ. “I’m just trying to protect her from the big bad wolves.”

The profile describes the rift between Weyant and a former cop who bought ‘Falling Woman’ from her a year ago for $15,000. Today, the waiting list for Weyant’s work is hundreds of names deep, and she’s now gearing up for a solo show for Gagosian in New York this fall.

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Weyant, the daughter of lawyers, has described in interviews that he was inspired by French painters for composition and Dutch masters for color palettes, as well as children’s books by Eloise, Madeline dolls, New Yorker cartoons, the Grinch, her own life and friends (she has a few she paints regularly and came in third in a National Gallery of Canada “So you want to be an artist?” competition for teens for a portrait of her friend Isabelle).

She has described her childhood as “idyllic in many ways” and her personality as a look a bit bubbly. She attended a conservative school outside of Calgary, where the kids wore not-so-pretty olive green uniforms (different shades of green are part of her signature muted palette). She is also fascinated by the ‘low-stakes trauma’ of the in-between and adolescence years. In “Welcome to the Dollhouse”, the dollhouse modeled after a dollhouse she had as a child, a doll has escaped through a window with a rope; another room shows two skinny legs sticking out from under a bed. Another doll is in an overflowing bath. “The works hint at a pervasive, real-life malevolence hidden beneath distracting veneers,” wrote writer and curator Jens Hoffmann.

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“Loose Screw” shows a woman who looks strikingly like Weyant, portrayed in a bar, smiling but a little unhinged, with one hand bandaged. In “Falling Woman” the character appears upside down, mouth open in surprise, chest spilling. Weyant’s characters are often heavy on cleavage or wavy hair.

She prefers dark greens and dark yellows to bright colors, tells journalist and gallery owner Bill Powers: “There’s a kind of silence in my compositions that needs this really muted kind of melancholic tone.”

“Someone recently told me that my palette felt dead to them. I took it as a compliment. I mean, I think they’re quiet, and I think silence can be powerful.”

Falling Woman by Anna Weyant on display at Sotheby's.  Weyant's characters are often heavy on cleavage or wavy locks of hair.
Falling Woman by Anna Weyant on display at Sotheby’s. Weyant’s characters are often heavy on cleavage or wavy locks of hair. Photo by Stephen Smith/Sipa USA

She likes ‘dark, dark humor’ and tragicomic stories. “If there’s humor in my work, it probably goes hand in hand with some weird misery,” she told Art&Object’s Paul Laster. She began considering a career as an artist when “it occurred to me that I am otherwise talentless.” She was discovered three years ago when another New York painter whom she then assisted posted some of her work on Instagram.

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In New York, Weyant paints from her one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Early in the pandemic, she moved back to Calgary with her parents and set up a temporary studio using her mother’s serving dishes as pallets. Oil paint takes a long time to dry in Calgary, she explained to Powers. “It’s so cold and dry.”

She appreciates her meteoric rise in the art world, she told Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal, but all she felt was “pressure” as Christie’s bid rose.

“The art world loves to devour its youngsters,” art critic Jerry Saltz told the WSJ. “It can be hard to paint with another voice in your head whispering numbers and prizes, but maybe she can.”

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