The list of museums that include works in their permanent collections by American neo-expressionist Hunt Slonem reads like a list of the most important institutions in the United States: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Institution, The National Gallery–to name just a few. More than 100 museums around the world, as well as important corporate and private collections, proudly display the artist’s colorful, vibrant, patterned paintings of exotic birds, bunnies, butterflies, monkeys, portraits of the famous and celebrated, as well as saints and siddhas. He is also the recipient of multiple important awards, including National Endowment For The Arts (1991) and Design Stars (2009).
Dominique Nahas, author of the monograph, The Worlds of Hunt Slonem, writes of the artist and his work:
“Profuse. Profound. Transcendent. Jubilant. In his life as in his art. Hunt Slonem is all of these things and more. He is an inveterate collector of the inanimate (chandeliers, furniture, candlesticks, even plantations) and animate (a menagerie of exotic birds), and his art, too, is accumulative; a governing principle of his painting and sculpture is multiplicity–of subject and of pattern.”
Born in Maine but highly influenced by the places he lived and worked as a youth–a boyhood in Hawaii, teen sojourn in Nicaragua, and his training at Tulane University, New Orleans–all cemented his passion for exotic creatures and southern charm.
Hunt Slonem’s artistic career began in earnest in New York after his arrival in 1973, his first major exhibition taking place in 1977. As his career progressed, he was introduced to people like Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Miles, and Truman Capote. He soon became a habitué of New York’s trendiest hot spots and an active participant in the city’s burgeoning art scene. His exotically extravagant, antique- and art-filled studio for years was an 89-roomed, 55,000 square foot space with expansive cages for his inspiring exotic birds. He has more recently “down-sized” to an equally vibrant, vivacious, breath-taking and bird-filled 30,000 square foot Manhattan studio.
Slonem’s cousin, best-selling author Tama Janowitz succinctly said of New York’s influence on the artist’s work: “His pictures are the subtext of Manhattan, an imaginary, vivid and grotesquely evocative world that bubbles beneath the paved-over, gray city of New York which he physically inhabits — a city where people have come from all over the world, bringing their images of other places and other lives with them.”
His paintings are layered with thick brushstrokes of vivid color, often cut into in a cross-hatched grid pattern that adds texture to the overall surface, and suggests the cages through which he views his birds. This surface patterning combines with the rich colors and recognizable subject matter to create paintings that are physically and aesthetically rich. Poet and critic John Ashbery observed, “From the narrow confines of his grids, half cage, half perch, Slonem summons dazzling explosions of the variable life around us that need only to be looked at in order to spring into being.”
The artist’s obsessive and repetitive rendering of his subjects reflects his desire to explore issues of spatial complexity, compression and density in what the acclaimed Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Henry Geldzahler deemed “a consistent investigation of post-cubist abstraction.” The repetitive imagery also makes a reference to Andy Warhol. “I was influenced by Warhol’s repetition of soup cans and Marilyn,” says Slonem. “But I’m more interested in doing it in the sense of prayer, with repetition… It’s really a form of worship.”
Included in that “worship” are his famous paintings of Bunnies, hundreds and hundreds of bunnies, a daily creative ritual from the time he realized, in the 80s, he was born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.
Hunt Slonem’s work has been exhibited in more than 350 shows worldwide, and his paintings, collections and estates have been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, published internationally.
Selected Permanent Collections:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY
The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
The Smithsonian Institution, DC
The National Gallery, DC
The Art Bank, U.S. Dept. of State, DC
United States Dept. of State, DC
Columbus Museum of Art, OH
Dayton Art Institute, OH
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel
Bahrain National Museum, UAE
Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain
Pulitzer Collection, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Henie-Onstad Kuntsenter, Norway
Selected Private Collections:
Bill & Hillary Clinton
Andre Leon Talley
Mr. & Mrs. James Niederlander
Monique Van Vooren
Mary Tyler Moore
Ann Hearst & Jay McInerny
Barry & Fran Weisler
Selected Corporate and Private Collections:
American Bar Association, DC
JP Morgan Chase, NY
Goldman Sachs & Co., NY
Takashimaya Corporation, HI
Readers Digest Association, NY