Firelei Báez, an artist whose lush paintings and sculptural installations have been seen widely in recent years, has joined Hauser & Wirth, the market juggernaut with more than a dozen galleries worldwide.
Hauser & Wirth will show and sell Báez’s art globally, meaning that her longtime representative, New York’s James Cohan Gallery, will no longer work with her. Previously, Báez had also been represented by Kavi Gupta gallery in Chicago.
“I am delighted to be joining Hauser & Wirth’s impressive family of artists, even more so to me for their racial and gender parity,” Báez said in a statement to ARTnews. “It is an honor to be among these pathbreakers, many of whom I have long admired. My work has always been built for and to expand beyond the limits of the human senses. The body serves as a tool for navigation in questioning and re-imagining normative histories. With this, I hope to continue to provide spaces for new ways of seeing.”
Báez joins Hauser & Wirth as two surveys of her art are being planned—one due to open in October in Denmark, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, the other due to open next year at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. The Louisiana Museum show is her first European survey.
Her elegant, richly colored works often take up interrelated histories that cross geographical borders. In Báez’s hands, many of those narratives are brought into more expressive realms.
One installation commissioned for Cleveland’s Front Triennial and later shown in an alternate version at the ICA Boston’s Watershed space resembles a replica of Haiti’s Sans-Souci palace as though it had emerged from the floors of institutions far away. The palace, which now exists in ruins, was home to King Henri I, a prominent figure in the Haitian fight for independence; it was permanently altered by an earthquake during the 19th century. Báez restores some of its majesty, effectively reanimating it.
Báez, who is now based in New York, was born in 1982 in Santiago de los Caballeros, a city in the Dominican Republic, and was raised for part of her childhood in Miami. Many of her works reference Dominican culture, with the ciguapa, a figure frequently identified as female that recurs in the country’s mythology, appearing often in her art.
She is now one of the few Latinx artists to be represented by a mega-gallery. Hauser & Wirth’s slate only has a handful of others, among them Angel Otero and the late Luchita Hurtado, who were born in Puerto Rico and Venezuela, respectively.
Hauser & Wirth has rapidly taken on a number of artists recently, with recent additions including Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce, sculptor Barbara Chase-Riboud, and filmmaker and painter Harmony Korine, who currently has a show at the gallery’s Los Angeles location.
In a statement, Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, said, “Firelei takes on history and transforms it into poetry—visual, visceral, technically inventive, breathtaking works of art that go beyond merely telling ussomething, to fully enveloping and implicating us. By consistently reasserting the importance of the Caribbean in the wider context of world history and revealing the pervasive presence and impact of Caribbean and Black cultures that have been previously obscured, her art demands we become more astute world citizens.”