• culture

    Sam Gilliam: Breakout Art Star at 85

    In today's instant 20-something art-star world, Sam Gilliam's star is rising after 60 years of creating art

    Sam has been doing more or less the same thing for the last 60 years. Except now his paintings go for $2 million when in the past no one knew his name. Coming from Tupelo, Mississippi, then schooled in Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Gilliam arrived in Washington D.C. in 1962, and he has lived and worked there ever since.

    But now he is getting some big-time attention. There was last year’s a retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. “Sam is the great abstract artist who represents a bridge between abstract expressionists of the midcentury and the renaissance that abstraction is enjoying today,” says Jonathan Binstock, a curator of the show.

    There are so many fascinating parts to Sam Gilliam’s work and story. There is the marriage of painting and sculpture, groundbreaking at the time and still awe-inspiring. Have a look at the video below to get a better understanding of what he was doing. The idea of making a painting that is not flat, but not a rigid sculpture either is marvelous.

    Most of the work in this show was done over a period of intense output between 1967 and 1973. He showed in the Venice Biennale back then but remained out of the spotlight, living and toiling quietly in Washington DC, out of the NYC artist glare of celebrity.

    Sam Gilliam, ‘Change,’ 1970.

    We find this somewhat sad, for us viewers anyway, as it would have been nice to have known about his work earlier. But for him, it was fine. Patience and solitude worked out well. This sort of career trajectory is almost unthinkable in today’s instant 20-something art-star world. But there was a time when becoming an artist did not mean celebrity and fancy dinners. It meant a lot of hard work, and probably another job to pay for it.

    Not that one is better than the other: it’s fantastic if one happens to be quickly recognized as a genius — a Mozart or, later, a Basquiat. But there is also something nice about doing the work for the work’s sake.



    David Stewart
    David Stewart
    David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

    More Stories

    Iggy, Bruce, Anna vs Time. Cool is Ageless

    Seeing Iggy Pop (72) in the new Gucci Cruise 2020 video ad alongside Gucci Mane (39) and Sienna Miller (37)  gave us pause for...

    This is a Crazy Story. How our CTO became huge in the world of K-Pop. The making of a TWICE Uncle.

    This is the remarkable story of Jack Phan, a 42-year-old tech entrepreneur, CEO, and now Korean pop influencer. What started with a single tweet...

    Paul Hynek 57, Radical Life Extension

    This is Paul Hynek. Among other notable achievements, and there are many, he is one of 9 people who successfully completed the recent Stanford...

    Crazy for Cryo (therapy). At Minus 185 Degrees?

    Why would anyone pay money to step into a chamber that is about as toasty as the dark side of the moon? Self-humiliation? Actually,...

    Why Did “Training With Joan” Get Such a Massive Reader Response?

    Every once in a while, we publish something that goes totally wild. Last week we did a short post on the Instagram account of...

    LATEST Profiles

    Paul Hynek 57, Radical Life Extension

    This is Paul Hynek. Among other notable achievements, and there are many, he is one of 9 people who successfully completed the recent Stanford...

    Debra Rapoport, 74

    As we are speaking, this native New Yorker is currently wearing a hat made of paper towels, and she looks magnificent. An artist, a...

    Ron Haviv, 54: Conflict Photographer, Filmmaker, Educator

    Ron is a legend, one of the best there is. He is a photographer who often works in conflict zones. Going to these exceedingly...