Focus on Cy Gavin


Cy GAVIN (born 1985) is originally from Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh. As a youngster, he was passionate about art and spent a lot of time in the Carnegie Museum of Art, which he sneaked into by a passage through the library, and then through the basements of the museum, not having the means to pay the $13 entrance ticket. His choice of artistic studies was natural and he obtained a first diploma at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 (San Francisco) after which he moved to New York to continue his training at the Fine Arts Department of the prestigious Columbia university, from which he graduated in 2016.

At Columbia, Cy stood out by opening a secret gallery in an abandoned building belonging to the University: an old locker room with showers was repainted in white and transformed into an exhibition space. The wild exhibitions he organized caused him a few problems with with the school’s administration, but they showed determination, daring and a talent that was immediately spotted by a New York gallery.

Rising star

Titled Fugue States, Gavin’s first show opened at Revision Space (Cindy Lisica Gallery) in February 2014. It was followed by a solo exhibition (Overture) at Sargent’s Daughters on Broadway. Twelve paintings were shown there: mainly canvases exploring the artist’s childhood, in particular his relationship with his Bermudan father. The reviews were positive from the start, especially that of Martha Schwendener for the New York Times, who, apart from describing his work as “eye-catching”, went as far as to compare his work with some of the greatest artists in history: Francis BACON, Paul GAUGUIN and even Paul CÉZANNE.

The following year, the Daughters sisters surfed on the success of the young prodigy by devoting a second solo exhibition to his work, with more paintings and video works. Gavin had spent the previous year in Bermuda where he conducted research on his genealogy, while delving into the complex history of the island which was at the forefront of the transatlantic slave trade before becoming a dream island for wealthy American tourists. The title of this second exhibition – At Heaven’s Command – was taken from the British anthem “Rule, Britannia”, written during the Bermuda slave period.

Once in New York auction catalogs, Gavin’s work encountered a whole new community of collectors.”

Very quickly, the strange atmosphere of his works interested a the major American collectors, Don and Mera Rubell, who exhibited his work in 2017 (titled High Anxiety: New Acquisitions) after having hosted him for six months in their residence at their Miami Foundation. The artist then went to Paris with an invitation from the VNH Gallery where he exhibited in the heart of the Marais district in the former premises of the legendary Yvon Lambert gallery. New York, Miami, Paris… At 33, Cy Gawin had already toured the major Western market places. All he needed was the support of a solid gallery, which happened in 2019 with a solo show at Gavin Brown’s enterprise (3 March – 14 April), a major New York gallery working notably with Urs Fischer, Peter Doig and Alex Katz.

Cy Gavin’s prices?

It was at this time – shortly after the exhibition at Gavin Brown’s enterprise – that his work first appeared at auction. His first result was hammered in October 2019 at Sotheby’s London, for a wave study which sold within its estimated range at $15,000. But once in New York auction catalogs, Gavin’s work encountered a whole new community of collectors: in November 2019, Sotheby’s sold a large canvas at double its estimate ($47,500 for Marsden Cemetery ar Tucker’s Point); then, in October 2020, Christie’s sold, for $62,500, an astonishing portrait of his father (Portrait of My Father), exhibited five years earlier at Sargent’s Daughters. Through this tribute depicting his deceased father being carried by a Bermudan wave, Cy Gavin seems to have crystallized his history and his unique style, and his works started to appear in the catalogs of major American sales alongside artists like Yoshitomo NARA, Matthew WONG and Andy WARHOL. His work will no doubt soon be appearing alongside these artists on the walls of major museums.


Artprice article published in Diptyk Magazine