Since Chuck Close was accused of sexual harassment in 2017, the painter – who died four years later – has been largely sidelined from the art world, with his work rarely appearing in solo exhibitions at museums and galleries .
But his longtime gallerist, Arne Glimcher, has always stood by Close, and he has now organized at Pace Gallery in Chelsea what he says will be the artist’s first major exhibition in New York since 2016, thus giving him farewell and closure, according to Glimcher. he deserves.
“For over 40 years, we have shown every cycle of Chuck’s work,” Glimcher, Pace’s founder and chairman, said in an interview. “It’s a very important exhibition because it’s the synthesis of everything he did.
“It’s crucial to complete the arc of all these exhibitions and catalogs,” Glimcher added. “He is one of the great painters of the 20th and 21st centuries – his influence is still enormous. Portraiture didn’t exist when he broke all the rules and took these amazing photos of people. It would be criminal not to own this last work in the history of his career.
Close, who in the 1970s and 1980s made enormous photorealistic portraits of himself and others, died at age 81 of cardiopulmonary failure. The artist, who had used a wheelchair since 1988 due to a vertebral artery collapse that initially paralyzed him from the neck down, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, which was changed to frontotemporal dementia in 2015.
The allegations against Close date back to 2017, when two women told The New York Times that they felt exploited when Close asked them to pose nude for him, and HuffPost published similar accounts from women.
Close has denied some allegations, but acknowledged speaking frankly and even crudely to women about their body parts in an attempt to evaluate them as possible subjects, and he said he apologized if he had women uncomfortable.
“Last time I looked, discomfort was not a major offense,” Close said in her apology. “I never made anyone cry, no one ever ran out. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to. I admit I have a bad mouth, but we are all adults.
The allegations have sparked a wider debate over whether art can be separated from the artist’s conduct. Following these accusations, the National Gallery of Art in Washington decided to postpone an exhibition of Close’s works indefinitely.
Asked if the National Gallery would hold a Close exhibition now, its director, Kaywin Feldman, said: “Close will always be an important artist in our collection and we will continue to show his work in perpetuity, but as we do not If we didn’t talk about it a show, I can’t say what we would do.
The National Portrait Gallery adjusted its wall labels to note the allegations, but left its close-up portrait of President Bill Clinton hanging. “At the Portrait Gallery, we try to be pretty transparent about a person’s life,” said Kim Sajet, the director. “But there is no moral test for being here, otherwise no one would be here at all.”
The Pace exhibition, “Chuck Close: Red, Yellow, and Blue, The Last Paintings,” which opens February 22 and runs through April 13, will feature works, almost all previously unseen, from the last five years of Close’s life. The exhibition notably includes paintings in red, yellow and blue which, according to Glimcher, make the work “more about color than image”.
In addition to self-portraits, the exhibit includes portraits of actors Claire Danes and Brad Pitt as well as an unfinished work featuring agent Michael Ovitz. Also included will be tapestries and mosaics made by Close during the same period.
“This new work is more abstract and quieter than any previous ones,” Close told artist Cindy Sherman in a 2018 interview. “The brushstrokes do not create shapes or represent any particular information in themselves, they simply exist as layers of transparent washes of oil colors that I try to treat like watercolors, as I did decades ago.” This interview, originally commissioned by The Brooklyn Rail, will be published in the Pace exhibition catalog.
Close told Sherman that the work “feels like a new beginning.”
In an interview, Sherman said the controversy surrounding Close was “a real shame for him, for his legacy”, given that she attributes his conduct to dementia and believes his work deserves to be seen. “He had a huge influence on me because he did this in-your-face portrait of every little wrinkle and every pore,” Sherman said. “It was important to my development as an artist.”
Glimcher, who in 2022 opened his own gallery in TriBeCa, said he worked on the exhibition with Close’s daughters, Georgia and Maggie, who, through him, declined to be interviewed.
Close’s accusations had an immediate impact on the market, reducing public demand for a once-prominent artist.
But Glimcher said he never reduced Close’s prices. “There is no reason to lower his prices, and these paintings are breathtaking,” he said. He said prices range from $1 million to $5 million.
The most recent Close listed at a major auction house – a 2012 watercolor, “Sienna,” depicting an artist who was Close’s wife from 2013 to 2016 – sold for around $25,000 last October at Christie’s. The record amount for a Close painting at auction, $4.8 million, was reached in 2005 at Sotheby’s.
Close’s most recent institutional presentation in the United States took place at the Pendleton Center in Oregon in 2017.
Glimcher said the controversy surrounding Close did not concern him. “There have been too many things about Chuck that aren’t about art,” he said. “I just want to talk about art.”
Glimcher also doesn’t see it as his responsibility to repair Close’s image. “That’s not my job,” Glimcher said. “Restoring one’s reputation is that exposure.”