Jacob Kassay is the young artist that’s been taking the New York art world by storm recently with his shimmering silver paintings that are fetching high prices at auctions around the world. Jacob Kassay’s paintings have brought in six-figures at auction, and there’s a long line of buyers eagerly awaiting his next works. Not too bad for a 27-year-old who only graduated from college in 2006.
Not one to go after something he didn’t’ need, Jacob seriously considered skipping college. After all, he was a young artist. What could some dreary old professor in a tweed jacket teach him about art? His mother, realizing what a college education could do for a failed artist, pushed him to attend, and he followed her wishes.
His time at the University of Buffalo went well, and Jacob drew a lot of inspiration from the excellent professors and instructors he had at the school, where he received a MFA in 2006. “One thing that stands out from my time at UB,” he told an alumni interviewer shortly after becoming famous, “is the encouragement I received from my professors.” No doubt there are a lot of aspiring artists knocking down the Art Department doors on campus at this very moment.
Stealing the Show
Jacob got his start in the New York art world and quickly rose to fame in the city. New Yorker magazine did a profile on him in the “Talk of the Town” section and pretty soon he wasn’t just attending galleries in anonymity, but getting asked for his views and thoughts on paintings, and perhaps his autograph as well.
Jacob Kassay grabbed headlines a few years ago when he attended an auction at Phillips de Pury & Co auction house and sold a painting for $86,500, a painting that was only valued at $8,000. Like many of his works, the painting had a shimmering silver surface that was made with a unique chemical process that involves priming the canvas, soaking it in chemicals and after that silver paint. When it’s dry he burns the edges.
The resulting work is like a mirror that doesn’t really deliver your reflection quite the way you expect, even making you look vague. Most people didn’t need $86,000 dollar works hanging in their apartment to tell them that, but the rich and famous often need the next big thing, so Jacob’s career took off. Still, those close to the art world saw it differently.
“The price is also a reflection of the deep support and enthusiasm for Jacob Kassay’s work,” said Augusto Arbizo of gallery Eleven Rivington, on the day of the auction.
What was really amazing, however, was what happened the following week. A charity auction took place to benefit the Kitchen, a nonprofit music, dance, and video production theatre in New York. Another of his silver works was up for grabs, this time a pricier pick of $12,000. Bidders from all over the world participated by phone, even in India, and Jacob’s painting went for $94,000.
In less than a week the whole art world was abuzz over Jacob Kassay. “This is the sort of show that we’ve been told the recession is supposed to vanquish: big, relatively expensive paintings from recent art school graduates,” observed Andrew Russeth, the editor of GalleristNY, shortly after the show.
“Kassay is only twenty-four. But let’s be clear: you’d have to be that young to tackle Ryman, Stingel, Klein, Warhol, this aggressively and successfully in a single set of monochromes.” Jacob was having no trouble filling those big shoes, and the art world was poised on the edge of its seat to see what he’d do next.
A Bright Future Ahead
Jacob Kassay moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter and set up a painting studio in Venice Beach. He’s described the area as calmer than that of New York, and his paintings began to reflect that. Still, all that sunshine must have been too much for the New Yorker, and in early 2013 it was reported that Jacob would be joining 303 Gallery in New York.
The art world is busily trying to categorize and value Jacobs silver paintings, and the task isn’t easy. There are a range of variations in each work, which results from the plating process that Jacob uses. When he burns the edges, some look more burnt than silver, while some are darker and don’t reflect much of anything. What’s becoming clear is that the more “silvery” the work, the more it will be worth. Those silver linings will ensure that Jacob never has a cloudy day so long as he keeps working.