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An Artist Born in 1933 Finds His Hottest Market in 2020

Sam Gilliam, who is 87, is on a market streak. A show at the Hirshhorn, planned for 2022, is likely to draw even more investor attention.

Sam Gilliam, Light Depth, 1969. Acrylic on canvas.

Sam Gilliam, Light Depth, 1969. Acrylic on canvas.

Courtesy Corcoran Gallery of Art. Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund), 2018

In the spring of 2022, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., will hold a retrospective of the abstract artist Sam Gilliam, his first major U.S. show in more than 15 years. Gilliam is best known for his brightly colored, unstretched canvases that hang from walls and ceilings—part paintings, part sculpture.

The Hirshhorn show, though, will include the many styles of Gilliam’s six-decade career. “It sets his work in context,” says Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu. “I think now that we understand Sam Gilliam’s practice a bit better, we can see that he was so much a part of the Washington Color School, but his work has evolved and gone in different directions. This [show] will be a reappraisal.”