With Fans Like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tyler the Creator, Artist Eric White Has Quietly Developed a Devoted, High-Profile Following

The artist, who also counts Shepard Fairey and Beth Rudin DeWoody among his collectors, has a new show at GRIMM, New York.

Eric White in front of his painting North (1971 Ford Torino) at GRIMM New York. Photo by Molly Krause.

There is more than one way to be a successful artist. Some zoom onto the scene fresh from Yale’s MFA program and hit it big early, while others are rediscovered after decades spent in obscurity. Then there are the artists who consistently sell to high-profile figures while maintaining a low profile themselves.

Eric White, the New York-based artist, falls into the third category and has quietly developed a devoted following and counts among his collectors actors Viggo Mortensen, David Arquette, and Leonardo DiCaprio; cyclist Lance Armstrong; fellow artist Shepard Fairey; and Nike CEO Mark Parker.

White’s latest exhibition at GRIMM gallery’s New York space, titled “Triage,” opened last week with actors Sean Penn and Ethan Hawke, as well as rapper Tyler the Creator, in attendance. (White created the album artwork for the rapper’s 2017 album Flower Boy.) The show is on view through January 13 and includes seven new, large paintings that grapple with anxiety and compulsion. 

To create the works in the show, White developed a backstory about a secretary living in 1970s America who manages her frail mental state by obsessively exercising control over little shrines of collectible items: photos, beetles, balls of yarn. The paintings are laden with ’70s ephemera and misplaced pop-culture references intended to mirror the frayed psyche of the artist’s character. For example, Center (1968 Pontiac Grand Prix) (2018), features a billboard for a low-budget Elizabeth Taylor film that flopped—and certainly didn’t have the marketing budget for large-scale advertising.

Eric White Triage (installation view at GRIMM, New York). Photo: courtesy of the artist and GRIMM.

Prices for his work range from $7,500 for small paintings to $85,000 for large-scale oil canvasses that extend across 12 feet. Dealer Jorg Grimm says he sold one large painting before the show opened on Friday and confirmed the sale of three mid-sized oils, a large 8-track installation, and several LP paintings a week into the show’s run.

Eric White Center (1968 Pontiac Grand Prix) (2018). Photo: courtesy of the artist and GRIMM, New York.

The painter is a longtime Hollywood favorite and is also in the collection of mega-collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. DiCaprio, meanwhile, has collected White’s work in depth since buying his first painting from the artist over 20 years ago, in 1996.

Eric White Offerings I (2018). Photo: courtesy of the artist and GRIMM, New York.

“Eric takes the hyperrealist movement that was started by painters like Richard Estes and Ralph Goings in the 1970s, but takes it much further by blending it with popular culture and a surreal environment,” Grimm told artnet News. “I think it’s a really unique perspective in contemporary painting that appeals to people.”

After mounting an exhibition with White in Amsterdam in 2016, the dealer says the decision to bring the work to New York is already paying off. The gallery has already made multiple sales to collectors who weren’t familiar with his work beforehand. “The demand has been really good,” he said. 

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