Kerwick’s paintings are colorful and vibrant: they often depict exotic animals like tigers and two-headed cobras. The Tiger was Kerwick at its fullest Kerwick, an acrylic painting of a two-headed tiger.
And that’s not the only job that collectors shell out big bucks for. Also in March, British auction house Phillips sold Kerwick’s cool cats (2019) for $112,300, breaking its $10,000 estimate. In their New York stable, it was a similar story, with Untitled 7 (2021) for $201,600.
Currently, the Australian is one of the most talked about emerging contemporary artists in the world. In five years as a full-time artist, Kerwick has exhibited in Paris, London, New York, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Spain’s national museum of 20th and 21st century art in Madrid, the Reina Sofia, home to the greatest of Spanish art, including Picasso’s famous Guernica, recently acquired one of Kerwick’s paintings.
“It’s a highlight of my career,” he said.
An eclectic group of people purchased Kerwick’s work. Celebrities like Sofia Richie (Lionel Richie’s daughter) and the Olsen twins, Steve Cohen, billionaire hedge fund manager and owner of the New York Mets, and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (who bought a Basquiat painting for 110 million dollars) also have a Kerwick.
Kerwick, who is represented by renowned gallery owner Vito Schnabel (son of American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel) in New York, and Toby Clarke’s Vigo Gallery in London, says he is proceeding with caution.
“The secondary market is scary,” he says.
While Kerwick’s work can now fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, to date he’s only pocketed a fraction of that, as most of the markup comes after the initial sale.
“I think I might have won a few thousand dollars, not a lot. But at the time, I thought it was still a lot of money for someone to buy a painting,” he says.
“I think a lot of people buy work more as an asset. It’s not good for me in the long run because if there’s an oversupply in the secondary market, the demand in the primary market goes down, and then I end up doing work that no one wants.
“We have to be careful who we sell to, which was never the intention, I wanted to make art that people would like.”
Justin Callanan, director and co-founder of Sydney Piermarq’s gallery, worked with Kerwick early in his career and has worked with him on three exhibitions, most recently in 2021.
“We were thrilled for him and surprised,” he says. “Historically the global art market has not looked to Australia for contemporary art, once an artist enters this commercial category they can catapult quickly.”
Callanan first approached Kerwick on Instagram in 2017, a platform he says allows young artists like Kerwick to share their work with a wider audience and connect with artists and galleries around the world.
“Jordy not only interacted using these mediums, he built networks with other artists, much like a school of artists approached collaboration at the time.”
He hopes Kerwick’s success means the global art world will “start looking at Australia a little more now”.
Kerwick has kept the house he bought with his wife in Williamstown, and there is still at least one career goal on his list.
“Being a Melburnian I would love to do something at the NGV, it would be a dream.”
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