Never-before-seen works by Matthew Wong will light up in New York

Matthew Wong, The Watcher, 2017. Ink on rice paper, 43 3/4 x 42 in.

Artist Matthew Wong first started painting in 2013. Then, he said in an interview that he did not have a fixed schedule. He added that he had only one exception.

The only thing that happens at the same time every day is when he gets out of bed he has to do an ink drawing before doing anything else like brushing his teeth or having breakfast. He sometimes experimented in the bathroom at his family’s Hong Kong home, he later said, randomly pouring ink over the pages – breaking them together – hoping something interesting would come out of it.

Later, Matthew Wong continued to make inventive ink drawings, but it was his glowing oil paintings – vibrant, mysterious, melancholic landscapes – that caught his attention and made him one of the foremost artists of the decade.

By the time Wong passed away in 2019 at the age of 35 by suicide, he had created nearly 1,000 paintings and drawings. His New York gallery Karma is preparing a raisonné catalog. Some of his ink works are still unknown. However, this may soon change.

They wanted 10-15 thousand dollars for it, but the final price was 62.5 thousand – a record for a daily online sale of contemporary art.

The Untitled watercolor was the first artist’s work to be auctioned

On May 5, Cheim & Read opened an exhibit celebrating Wong’s efforts in this unforgiving environment – just ink, water, and rice paper – at her Chelsea Gallery, which she closed in 2019 and rented out to the Upper East Side.

Matthew Wong: Footprints in the Wind, Ink Drawings 2013–2017 includes 24 pieces that have never been exhibited before. This is a collaboration with the Matthew Wong Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the artist’s parents in Toronto, Monita and Raymond Wong, to preserve his legacy and continue his charitable work. Its mission is currently being finalized.

Matthew Wong is known to have honed his artistic approach in libraries and on the Internet – he blogged where he posted photos of some of the drawings from the upcoming show and enjoyed talking about art on Facebook. This is how the co-founder of Cheim & Read, John Chame, met him.

Chame in an email said that in 2015 Matthew Wong artist and his mother Monita came to visit me for the first time in New York and brought with them a tube of large drawings in black ink. Matthew Wong had a striking face – tall, handsome, with a shock of black hair and big black glasses, everything was carefully thought out.

As is the case with Wong’s alluring oils, his ink work draws comparisons to some of the gigantic names but is undoubtedly his own. They have the swirling energy of Charles Burchfield, the dense hypnotic pattern of Yayoi Kusama, and the uncanny creepiness of Ralph Albert Blakelock.

Without the presence of color, they help to understand how Matthew Wong created his mesmerizing paintings. In The Observer (2017), hundreds of fast, short lines emanate from a giant sun as a mysterious bird sits on top of a cliff and looks away with one eye.

In an unnamed forest scene in 2015, at least three figures may or may not appear amid a virtuoso array of diverse characters. There is always something to do.

Last year, Matthew Wong’s parents donated a huge 2016 ink work – over six feet tall (and thrilling even in the form of a tiny digital image) – to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Offering a free-floating world in another world, it is eminently surreal, yet at the same time gentle and intimate in the sense in which it emerges from simple strokes: black liquid on white paper. Chame said about  Matthew Wong’s paintings that it’s like you can feel particles in the air. The space between the inner and outer world dissolves – a kind of psychological pantheism arises.

Matthew Wong: paintings by an artist who committed suicide

The popularity of the work of Matthew Wong – a Canadian artist who committed suicide at the age of 35 – has reached incredible heights. At Christie’s auction, his painting Shangri-La (2017) sold for $ 4.47 million, six times the preliminary estimate of $ 700,000. Thirteen buyers were registered to participate in the auction, but some did not even have time to place bids.

This is not the only time that collectors pay more for Matthew Wong’s paintings than auctioneers expect. In June 2020, the work “The Kingdom of Phenomena” (2018) went to Sotheby’s for $ 1.8 million – 22 times more expensive than the estimate of $ 80 thousand.

Matthew Wong, Shangri-La (2017)


Matthew Wong was a poet, photographer, and self-taught artist who talked a lot on social media about the development of his painting practice. These revelations, coupled with the results of experiments, attracted many devoted fans to him.

One of them was the veteran dealer John Chame, who introduced Wong to the director of the non-profit space White Columns, Matthew Higgs. The artist was soon given a studio in Edmonton, where he delved deeper into creating atmospheric landscapes while strengthening his self-taught status.

After participating in several group exhibitions, Wong made his personal debut in March 2018 at Karma Gallery in New York. There, his work received rave reviews.

The kingdom of appearances, Matthew Wong 2018, 165.1 × 203.2 cm

The young man was autistic, suffered from Tourette’s syndrome, and could not overcome depression, which he had been struggling with since childhood.

After his suicide, a series of paintings remained in the studio, which formed the basis of a posthumous solo exhibition at the Karma Gallery New York in November 2019.

At first, none of his work was put up for sale, and many bidders considered it incorrect to bring the artist’s work to the market so soon after his death. Just months after Matthew Wong’s tragic death, one owner handed over to Sotheby’s a small watercolor bought at the artist’s first exhibition in 2018.

This was the first time that a work by Matthew Wong artist was put up for auction. They wanted 10-15 thousand dollars for it, but the final price was 62.5 thousand – a record for a daily online sale of contemporary art.

Matthew Wong, the up-and-coming self-taught artist whose vibrant landscapes, forest scenes, and still lifes were just beginning to gain critical attention and acclaim, died on October 2 in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 35 years old. Mr. Wong, suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome and depression, is widely known for his first solo exhibition in the New York gallery.

Leading art historians have compared his work to those of Matisse, Van Gogh, and Georges Seurat.


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