Three Collectible Artists to Watch in 2017

Alexandra Peers spotlights Xavier Veilhan, Jonas Wood, and Stephen Hannock

Stephen Hannock's 2016 ethereal painting, Flooded River With Red Maple (Mass Moca #241), celebrates the seasonal Spring flooding of the American landscape.
Photo: Stephen Hannock, Courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York

Xavier Veilhan

In general, an artist’s work rises in price because, beyond talent, he or she has savvy dealers, influential collectors, curatorial support, or critical buzz. But sometimes a whole country endorses your art.

The vibrant blue geometric forms of Veilhan’s installation, Le Mobile (Grand Palais), suspends from the ceiling of the Grand Palais for the 2013 Dynamo exhibition. Photo: Courtesy Galerie Perrotin, Xavier Veilhan mobile, Xavier Veilhan/ADAGP, Paris/ARS, New York, 2016

Xavier Veilhan, born 1963, will represent France at the Venice Biennale in May. A global bellwether for contemporary art trends, the event held at the Italian city’s huge and leafy Giardini invites dozens of countries to exhibit art in national pavilions, some of which have been standing for more than a century.

France’s pick—Veilhan—nosed out 23 competitors for the honor. He is well known for sculptures that look like 3-d cubist paintings and for striking mobiles. His artworks suggest and embrace motion. In Italy, his Biennale work will be a music studio with instruments/sculptures specially created for the installation.

The artist is co-represented by Galerie Perrotin, one of Europe’s most powerful art dealerships, as it also reps Takashi Murakami and Maurizio Cattelan, among others. A Perrotin party—usually a very fancy affair indeed—will often include music-industry celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, plus an occasional billionaire or two. So expect Veilhan’s pavilion to become a buzzy hangout in Venice, and for his renown to grow.

Jonas Wood

“Who’s Jonas Wood?” That was the question some people, craning their necks and confused, were asking themselves in the Sotheby’s London showroom one night last year. The artist’s 2010 painting Studio Hallway zoomed out of the gate with bids quickly climbing from £45,000 to a new record of £365,000.

Among the people who didn’t have to ask “Who’s Jonas Wood?” was Leonardo DiCaprio, who reportedly started collecting the artist’s work a couple of years earlier. Indeed, West Coast painter Wood is a favorite of the Hollywood celebrity set, in part because of his laid-back California aesthetic. Think David Hockney meets a brighter color palate, with vivid green plants and basketball players subbing for Hockney’s pools and swimmers.

You know a Wood work when you see one: rooms crunched in with detail, without seeming claustrophobic, portraits of people with plain, real faces; it all feels relaxed, American, very 21st century. The powerhouse dealers behind him include Los Angeles’ David Kordansky plus Larry Gagosian. Galerie also gives props to dealer Marianne Boesky for featuring Wood, born 1977, early on in a group show.

Playful patterns and dynamic shapes create the setting of Wood’s 2015 oil and acrylic painting, Red Rug Still Life. Photo: Brian Forrest, Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

Well-liked in both the art and collector community—a rarity—Wood has had a considerable amount of success already, with a solo show at the Hammer Museum of UCLA in 2010.

Collectors who fall for Wood’s work now are not quite on the ground floor. But the good news is “flippers” who are putting his work on the auction block may keep the lid on prices for a while. In the art market, it’s a delicate balance between overexposure and exclusivity. There’s no guarantee prices are going up, but how many 30-something artists’ work is already in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art?

Stephen Hannock

Artist Stephen Hannock, at a fast glance, looks like a master misplaced in his time. His moody, sometimes-overscale landscapes evoke the works of Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church from nearly two centuries ago.

The New England-trained painter—you can feel the mood of the region in his palate—has updated Cole and Church’s sweeping style to significant acclaim. Hannock, born 1951, in Albany, New York, was far from an overnight success, as he bucked the twin late 20th-century trends for abstractionism and cynicism. Success came: The musician Sting is both a collector and a friend, as are William Lauder and John McEnroe. Hannock’s works dot many museum walls and he is a featured artist of a genuine New York legend, the famed restaurant Gramercy Tavern. He even shared in an Academy Award for visual effects, in 1999, for his work on the Robin Williams film, What Dreams May Come.

Stephen Hannock’s 2016 ethereal painting, Flooded River With Red Maple (Mass Moca #241), celebrates the seasonal flooding of the American landscape. Photo: Stephen Hannock, Courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York

“The key to Stephen Hannock’s work is that it is gorgeous,” Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston once said. For decades, Tinterow served as a top curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns, and displays, a Hannock.

The artist’s approach, according to his galleries, “involves layering subtly modulated acrylic paint across canvases, repeated polishing with sanders, and veneers of reflective resin which allow light to penetrate the stratum of the picture and reflect back with exceptional illumination.” Some have dubbed his style “Neo-Luminist.”

Works have depicted Niagara Falls, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, where he lives, but the painter has also taken the 19th-century advice to “Go West” and has more recently painted images of the California coast.