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.
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.
Chatsworth Arts Festival
Saturday, September 21, 2019, 4:15–5:15pm
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England
Rachel Feinstein is participating in the Chatsworth Arts Festival, a weekend of culture and performance. She will discuss her experience of being an artist in residence at Chatsworth, as well as the process of making her life-size ceramic sculpture Britannia (2019), a female figure that depicts the Roman personification of the British Isles. To attend the event, purchase tickets at chatsworth.seetickets.com.
Rachel Feinstein, Britannia, 2019 (detail) © Rachel Feinstein
The British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to the contemporary art world at the organization’s yearly Women in Art lunch. Rachel Feinstein is the 2019 guest of honor at the London event on June 27, 2019. Feinstein will speak with English television executive and presenter Alan Yentob about her dual role of artist and muse. She has also donated her work Chuey (2019) to support BFAMI.
Rachel Feinstein, Chuey, 2019 © Rachel Feinstein
Monday, June 3, 2019, 5:30–6:30pm
Gagosian Shop, New York
Rachel Feinstein will be signing copies of her new book, Secrets, at the Gagosian Shop in New York. 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 Z-fold cover, which features a cutout doorway that embodies the dichotomies present in the artist’s work. To attend the free event, RSVP to email@example.com.
Rachel Feinstein: Secrets (New York: Gagosian, 2019)
Rachel Feinstein in
HY x OffTheWall
Through November 30, 2019
Hudson Yards, New York
This exhibition features large-scale interactive and three-dimensional installations, curious and often humorous tableaus, 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
Opened June 25, 2019
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