Lucien Smith Is Not Letting People's Fears Get To Him

From selling $300,000 USD artwork at Sotheby’s to Serving the People, the artist breaks down his tumultuous career.

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Lucien Smith was already a professional artist at the young age of 21. He ran a studio with his own assistants while studying at Cooper Union and sold his paintings for thousands of dollars at auction. His current sale record is $389,000 USD for his Hobbes, The Rain Man, and My Friend Barney / Under the Sycamore Tree (2011) which sold at Phillips New York in 2013. In his early years as an artist, Smith’s practice involved accidental and improvisational markings to create loose motifs in his dynamic compositions. His series of Rain Paintings is perhaps the most recognized, with the artist having utilized paint-filled fire extinguishers to create the body of work. When Smith wasn’t painting, he was modeling for Supreme — having appeared in numerous lookbooks as early as Spring/Summer 2010.

Smith’s meteoric rise to art world stardom inevitably collapsed. He was one of the few young artists whose career was hurt by the art market trend called “Zombie Formalism” which spanned four years starting in 2011. This was a particularly turbulent era for Smith, and fellow artists Oscar Murillo and Jacob Kassay, when collectors bought paintings for their similar abstract style and then flipped these pieces at auctions soon afterward. In 2015, Smith moved to Montauk to decompress and free himself from the pressures of the art world. Living in Montauk for the past five years has helped Smith realize his new purpose: Serving The People (STP). Smith’s mission for this non-profit platform is to promote his new works and the creations of like-minded, interdisciplinary artists without the “commercial bias” of the art industry. He launched the first exhibition under the experimental initiative back in January during Frieze LA.

“When you think about art it’s the ability to create something from within. It’s great that there is economics around that but it shouldn’t have a profound effect on your practice,” Smith said to HYPEBEAST. “You don’t want to focus on the sellability of art. That’s the path where you really don’t want to find yourself in — it’s taking the soul out of it.”

For our latest episode of HYPEBEAST Diaries, we caught up with Smith in his Montauk home to discuss his artistic evolution, highlights of his career, and his purpose for Serving The People.

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