Comments/Context: Lucas Samaras has made a career out of transforming portraiture, extending its boundaries in new and unexpected directions. Long before the advent of Photoshop, he was playing with ways to alter reality, from distorted manipulated emulsions to wild colored stage lighting. His newest works continue to upend conventions, taking the standard beauty of the headshot portrait and digitally recasting it as a buoyantly ghoulish riff.
Samaras' approach has been applied to a parade of famous artists, collectors, curators, writers, gallery owners, and museum trustees, creating a gallery of well known faces, from Jasper Johns, Chuck Close and Cindy Sherman, to Leonard Lauder, Agnes Gund and Glenn Lowry, seen not with perfect respect, but with a tinge of playful malignancy. It's a thoroughly entertaining approach, for those both known and unknown, as the series of everyday faces becomes something altogether more alien and sinister. The show is certainly one of the most gleefully mischievous exhibits I've been to in quite a while, showing once again that Samaras has a nearly endless reserve of ways to undermine traditional portraiture.
Collector's POV: All of the works in this show are priced at $16000 each. Samaras' work has not been widely available in the secondary markets in recent years, with only a few lots coming up for sale here and there. Aside from the recent Polaroid sale, where a new record was set for his work ($194500) and many of his other vintage images sold for five figure prices, Samaras' work has been relatively affordable, with most lots selling at auction for under $10000.
In my view, these Samaras portraits have the potential to be the next hot commission, the must have of the moment for many collectors. I suppose that for those that take themselves too seriously, there is the potential to hate these pictures. But for others with a more playful sense of humor, a portrait in this freakish style could become an amazingly fun family heirloom.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)
- Reviews/Features: Artinfo (here), Daily Beast (here), Vanity Fair (here), Interview (here), W (here)