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For more than five decades artist Hunt Slonem has been painting and reimagining his obsessions: butterflies, birds, bunnies, and portraits of Abraham Lincoln, whom he refers to as his Warhol Marilyn.
The Warhol reference is no fluke. Repetition plays a huge role in his work—and excess and extravagance define his life and art—both he and his brother Jeffrey were frequent habitués of Andy Warhol’s legendary Factory in the 1970s. But unlike Warhol, who famously declared his art to be a mass-produced commodity, Slonem does it all with his own two hands.
In addition to painting multiples of his signature motifs, he sculpts, makes prints, does watercolors, creates installations and collects antique furniture and historic homes—seven of them to be exact: four mansions and three plantations (perhaps too much “Gone with the Wind” as a child?). He even owns an armory.
If not for the pandemic, Slonem might be in Latvia, where he has a major exhibition, or Los Angeles, for the installation of his 700-square foot bunny mural—or perhaps he would be visiting one of his three mansions in Louisiana. Instead, he’s cheerfully working away in his Brooklyn studio, where not even Covid can rein in his childlike urge to pull yet another rabbit out of a hat.
Each morning, when he enters his 30,000 square-foot studio, he warms up by painting bunnies, his most consistent subject. Rendered in almost childlike contour lines, his happy, colorful rabbits feel as if they hopped right out of “Alice in Wonderland.”
“I don’t believe people choose buildings, I believe buildings choose people,” said Hunt Slonem of his latest project, a complete redesign of the Colonel Louis Watres Armory in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “I just fell in love with it.”
The acclaimed artist transformed the historic armory, which was built in 1900 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, into an artistic design mecca. The space is truly a work of art: from the vibrant, multicolored interiors to the collection of rare items decorated throughout, Slonem’s transformative touch has brought a new life to the 102,000-square-foot space.
The project is the subject of a book recently published by Assouline, featuring Slonem’s work with text by Sara Ruffin Costello. The book takes readers through the Armory room by room, highlighting Slonem’s eclectic work and sense of wonder. Take a peek inside the stunning book and see Slonem’s project up close here.
ARTnews kicked off Frieze Art Week in New York early in partnership with the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District and Vilebrequin to celebrate the third annual Madison Avenue Gallery Walk. ARTnews started the morning with a tour led by Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas highlighting several of the important shows on Madison Avenue this spring. Participants this year were able to enjoy exhibitions at nearly 50 galleries and attend presentations led by artists and curators throughout the day. Later in the afternoon, ARTnews closed this action-packed celebration of art by hosting a cocktail hour honoring the launch of Vilebrequin’s limited-edition collection with Hunt Slonem. Commenting on the project, Slonem said, “I was thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Vilebrequin and bring my work to life. The inspirations behind this collaboration were my animal imagery reemerging in the elements, and my turtles returning to water. Vilebrequin’s masterful techniques in craftsmanship have resulted in our swimwear capsule as wearable art to be treasured for years to come.”