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That British Girl in Girls Is a Painter and Somehow Made the Forbes 30 under 30 List
by Max Nesterak

<b>Jemima Kirke</b>, <i>Lena<i/>, 2011, oil on canvas

Forbes released its list of 30 under 30 in Art & Style this week, carving out 5 places for fine artists and surprising us (as well as the Forbes authors) with Jemima Kirke, better known for her role as the cheeky, free-spirited British girl, Jessa Johansson, on HBO's Girls. Surprising because she wasn't selected for her acting, which is superb, but for her painting, which is mediocre.

Her expressive oil paintings of her friends aren’t particularly good, although they aren’t particularly bad either (Her nude portrait of “Lena,” which kind of looks like Lena Dunham, is definitely worth taking note of). She mainly paints scowling 20-something girls sitting on beds in varying degrees of nudity. Though perhaps her portraits are not that simple? As her website puts it, “By turns both heart-breakingly intimate and ultimately entirely distant, Kirke flees from obvious representations of her subject matter to focus on an underlying darkness and the interplay of pathology that exists between artist and the person studied”… or something like that.

More surprising (read: infuriating) than Kirke being named, was Forbes’ disclaimer that finding successful artists under 30 was particularly difficult for their judges, which included Jeffrey Deitch, former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Peter Brant, publisher of Art in America and father to the New York socialites Peter II and Harry, and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

It wouldn’t be particularly hard to formulate a better list, especially considering most of those named (save Oscar Murillo) hardly have CV’s longer than a single page… double spaced. Kirke’s past exhibitions include the Miami Projects Art Fair and a tattoo parlor in Brooklyn. And while Forbes says judges knowingly picked a couple of unknown artists (Travess Smalley and Torey Thorton), they didn’t even pick all new artists. Lucien Smith was named last year too.

So if Forbes’ list is supposed to showcase the most promising and successful creative people under 30, why is it so, well, bad? Well, determining metrics for talent and potential can be difficult in the art world with so many variables to consider from who you know to who you party with. Looking at Forbes selection – 4 parts male, 4 parts painter, 3 parts Cooper Union BFA, 2 parts OHWOW Gallery, and 1 part GIRLS – our back-of-the-napkin tally suggests the artists were evaluated on a mixture of gender and medium with a suspiciously strong emphasis placed on graduation from a selective arts college in Manhattan.

Also, we almost forgot (thanks, Forbes!), season 3 of Girls premieres next week. 

Posted by Max Nesterak on 1/8/14 | tags: sculpture Jeffrey Deitch Peter Brant Isaac Mizrahi Oscar Murillo OHWOW Gallery Lucien Smith Torey Thorton Travess Smalley Cooper Union Jemima Kirke Forbes lena dunham girls jessa

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