I’ve always been interested in portraying some kind of fantasy, then showing that it’s completely constructed. There are always dark messages hidden behind beauty, and the act of sculpting is about listening to that inner voice that warns you about something lurking beneath the surface.
In richly detailed sculptures and multipart installations, Rachel Feinstein investigates and challenges the concept of luxury as expressed in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, in the context of contemporary parallels. By synthesizing visual and societal opposites such as romance and pornography, elegance and kitsch, and the marvelous and the banal, she explores issues of taste and desire.
Born in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and raised in Miami, Feinstein received a BA in 1993 from Columbia University, New York, where she studied religion, philosophy, and studio art. That same year she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She found her passion for sculpture under the influence of mentors such as Kiki Smith, Ursula von Rydingsvard, and Judy Pfaff. In 1994 Feinstein was included in several group shows in New York, including Let the Artist Live! at Exit Art, where she presented a large gingerbread house modeled after Sleeping Beauty’s castle in which she slept throughout the exhibition.
Feinstein’s work was included in the first iteration of MoMA PS1’s Greater New York in 2000. She had her first solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, the following year, showing large plaster and wood sculptures of lions, swans, angels, and waterfalls, and transforming one of the galleries into an all-white Rococo-style salon, inspired by imperial palaces in Munich and Vienna. The construction of fantastical, multidimensional environments is integral to Feinstein’s practice. Preferring to see her work in complex interiors, she often brings Baroque elements into exhibition spaces, complicating the relationship between sculpture and painting, positive and negative space. The sculptures, viewed from certain angles, flatten, while the walls seem to expand through Feinstein’s use of mirrors and wallpaper.
Seeing her ornate sculptures reflected in her paintings on mirror from the early 2000s, Feinstein began to explore spatial landscapes, notably those depicted in panoramas from the 1800s. Using found images, she created hybrid arcadian landscapes printed on mirrored wallpaper. The first of these wallpapers, Panorama of Rome (2012), was installed in the elliptical gallery at Gagosian in Rome, offering visitors an impressionistic view of the city around them. In 2010–11 Feinstein transformed the modernist interior of Lever House, New York, into a snowy wonderland, rife with stylized elements of Rococo and Gothic design. Interpreting Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen, she created a gilded carriage, groups of toy soldiers, arched alcoves containing characters from the story, and sublime architectural ruins painted onto floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Three years later her sculpture Folly (2014) was installed in New York’s Madison Square Park, marking Feinstein’s first public art exhibition in the US.
In 2018 Feinstein produced the Secrets series, comprising eight large-scale sculptures that reimagine the Victoria’s Secret “Angels,” as well as ceramic sculptures inspired by Franz Anton Bustelli’s Rococo commedia dell’arte figurines. As in much of her work, the theatrical and the intricate verge on the grotesque, becoming strangely erotic abstractions, and suggesting the body through its absence.
The artist discusses her life and work with Alan Yentob.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2019
The Winter 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a selection from Christopher Wool’s Westtexaspsychosculpture series on its cover.
Rachel Feinstein at Chatsworth
A new sculpture by Rachel Feinstein has been unveiled on the grounds of Chatsworth, the celebrated Derbyshire estate, where Feinstein recently spent time as Gucci’s inaugural artist in residence. Alice Godwin tells the story of how it came to be.
Rachel Feinstein: Frieze Sculpture
Rachel Feinstein speaks about her outdoor installation for Frieze Sculpture 2018—a set of four majolica sculptures, inspired by Franz Anton Bustelli’s Rococo commedia dell’arte figurines.
Rachel Feinstein Brings Rome to Paris
Rachel Feinstein speaks to Gagosian’s Angela Brown about “bringing Rome to Paris,” for her exhibition at Le Mur.
This Long Year
In the Studio
Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 11am EST
Join Madison Square Park Conservancy for a conversation between artists Rachel Feinstein, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Alison Saar, moderated by art journalist Jacoba Urist. The three artists, who have all presented installations in Madison Square Park in New York, will discuss creativity as it relates to studio life during the pandemic, political turmoil, and protests. The event is part of series of live conversations amongst artists, curators, writers, and art professionals reflecting on the challenges and magnitude of the last year. To attend the online event, register at madisonsquarepark-org.zoom.us.
Rachel Feinstein, Cliff House, 2014, installation view, Madison Square Park, New York © Rachel Feinstein. Photo: James Ewing
Rachel Feinstein: Secrets is available for online reading from July 19 through August 17 as part of the From the Library series. Secrets documents Feinstein’s 2018 exhibition at Gagosian, Beverly Hills, which included a series of oversize, flamboyantly colored sculptures of women inspired by the Victoria’s Secret “Angels,” as well as mirror paintings, majolica sculptures, and a panoramic wallpaper that allude to both the European decorative arts and West Coast modernist luxury. A sculptural object in its own right, the book unites these distinct bodies of work—along with an essay by curator Pamela Golbin and a conversation between Feinstein and designer Tom Ford—within a single volume bound in a Z-fold cover, embodying the dichotomies present in the artist’s work.
Rachel Feinstein: Secrets (Beverly Hills: Gagosian, 2019)
Alternate Meanings in Film and Video
You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.
Gagosian is pleased to present Broadcast: Alternate Meanings in Film and Video, an online exhibition of artists’ films and videos viewable exclusively on gagosian.com. The exhibition will be organized into a series of “chapters,” each lasting two weeks. The first chapter begins on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
Broadcast: Alternate Meanings in Film and Video employs the innate immediacy of time-based art to spark reflection on the here and now, taking the words of famed psychologist and countercultural icon Timothy Leary as its starting point.
Adam McEwen, Escape from New York, 2014 (still from “Battery Tunnel”) © Adam McEwen
Through June 2024
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England
The Artist in Residence project is a program at Chatsworth House, in collaboration with Gucci, where the public is invited to discover an artist’s works while visiting the estate. Rachel Feinstein’s works create an open dialogue between the artist’s perspective and her environment, reflective of her research during her residency at Chatsworth.
Rachel Feinstein working at the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg, Munich, 2019. Artwork © Rachel Feinstein. Photo: Samuel Keyte, courtesy Gucci
Maiden, Mother, Crone
November 1, 2019–January 17, 2021
Jewish Museum, New York
Rachel Feinstein: Maiden, Mother, Crone, the first survey of the New York–based artist in the United States, brings together three decades of Feinstein’s work in sculpture, installation, painting, drawing, and video, as well as a newly commissioned wall relief, a panoramic wallpaper, and the artist’s sculptural maquettes.
Installation view, Rachel Feinstein: Maiden, Mother, Crone, Jewish Museum, New York, November 1, 2019–January 17, 2021. Artwork © Rachel Feinstein
Matt Black × Gana Art
November 1, 2019–January 5, 2020
Gana Art Center and Gana Art Hannam, Seoul
In collaboration with filmmaker Matt Black, this exhibition is centered around his short film series titled Reflections, which features conversations with contemporary artists. Through his interviews, Black paints a picture of the rapidly changing contemporary art scene, revealing the stories behind the artworks. Following the film’s theme, Gana Art has curated this exhibition to feature works by these artists, which include Dan Colen, Rachel Feinstein, Jeff Koons, Harmony Korine, Sterling Ruby, Taryn Simon, and Blair Thurman, among others.
Installation view, Reflections: Matt Black × Gana Art, Gana Art Center and Gana Art Hannam, Seoul, November 1, 2019–January 5, 2020. Artwork © Sterling Ruby
Rachel Feinstein in
HY × OffTheWall
March 15–November 30, 2019
Hudson Yards, New York
This exhibition features large-scale interactive and three-dimensional installations, curious and often humorous tableaux, and murals by thirteen artists. All artworks relate to the rich history and geographic location of the Hudson Yards. Work by Rachel Feinstein is included.
Rachel Feinstein, Romeo and Juliet, 2019 (detail) © Rachel Feinstein