Kerwick’s paintings are colorful and vibrant: they often depict exotic animals such as tigers and two-headed cobras. The Tiger was Kerwick at its best Kerwick, an acrylic painting of a two-headed tiger.
And it’s not the only work collectors are spending a lot of money on. Also in March, British auction house Phillips Kerwick’s sold cool cats (2019) for $112,300, beating its estimate of $10,000. It was a similar story at her New York stable, 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 of the greats of Spanish art including Picasso’s famous Guernica, recently acquired one of Kerwick’s paintings.
“It’s a career highlight,” he says.
An eclectic group of people bought Kerwick’s work. Celebrities like Sofia Richie (Lionel Richie’s daughter) and the Olsen twins, billionaire hedge fund manager and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (who famously bought a Basquiat painting for $110 million) also have one Kerwick.
Kerwick, who is represented by well-known 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 fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars today, he has only pocketed a fraction of that since most of the premium comes after the original sale.
“I think I might have made a few thousand dollars, not much. 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 rather than an asset. It’s not good for me in the long term because when there’s oversupply in the secondary market, demand in the primary market goes down and then I’m just doing work that nobody 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 Gallery Piermarq in Sydney, worked with Kerwick early in his career and has worked with him on three exhibitions, the last in 2021.
“We were happy for him and amazed,” he says. “In the past the global art market has not looked to Australia for contemporary art, once an artist moves into this commercial category they can catapult quickly.”
Callanan first approached Kerwick in 2017 on Instagram, a platform that allows emerging artists like Kerwick to share their work with a wider audience and connect with artists and galleries around the world.
“Jordy wasn’t just interacting with these media, he was building networks with other artists, much like how an art school approached collaboration back then.”
He hopes Kerwick’s success will make the global art world “look a little more towards Australia now”.
Kerwick has kept the home he bought with his wife in Williamstown, and there’s at least one more career goal on his list.
“As a Melburnian, I would love to do something with the NGV, it would be a dream.”
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