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Don’t Miss These Rising Artists at the American Folk Art Museum’s Latest Auction

Living in New York, there never seem to be quite enough trains running when you need to catch one. And, if you’re not rising with the sun, don’t expect to find a sesame bagel left in the local deli tin by the time you drag yourself out of bed. One thing New York does have a wealth of, however, is art museums. 

Among the offerings is art-world jewel the American Folk Art Museum: a bastion of folk and self-taught artistry, and one of the city’s only free institutions. “Contemporary artists are continuously telling me how much they appreciate the American Folk Art Museum for its role in championing art outside of the mainstream,” says Paul Laster, an AFAM curatorial advisor. “Practicing artists are inspired by the work of self-taught artists for its purity of purpose. Made without a fine art market in mind, it’s created to express the inner feelings, unique visions, and obsessions of its makers, which is something that the greater art world deeply admires.”

Since its opening in 1961, the museum has collected over 7,000 works engineered with community and ingenuity in mind. This March, AFAM is hosting its fourth “For Folk's Sake!” auction in collaboration with Artsy to benefit the institution’s ongoing mission. Established artists—including the likes of Cindy Sherman, Kenny Scharf, and Louise Lawler—have contributed work alongside a slate of up-and-coming talents. Here, get to know four of the buzziest new names in the lineup. 

Amie Cunat, Three flashes, 2024. All images courtesy of the artist and the American Folk Art Museum.

Amie Cunat

Amie Cunat’s painting Three flashes, 2024, doesn’t have any of the romanticism or lilting petals one might expect from a floral composition. Instead, the Japanese-American artist’s wildlife is all hard angles, with stick-straight leaves and geometric blossoms. 

The acid-tinged work is characteristic of an artist inspired by Karl Blossfeldt’s anatomical botany, sci-fi films, and the Art Deco era. Cunat, a New York-based professor at Fordham and Cooper Union, is set to host her next exhibition with Philadelphia’s Peep in September. 

Jon Young, Box, Rain, Scorpion, 2024.

Jon Young

Out in the Mojave Desert, Jon Young lived for a time amid snakes, scorpions, and towering cacti. Now, the elements of this experience are littered throughout the St. Louis-based artist’s ever-growing body of fabric sculptures. The tightly woven constructions burst with color, whether they hang on the wall or grow from floorboards. 

For the auction, Young contributed Box, Rain, Scorpion, 2024. On the left side of this gold-drenched piece, viewers can see the desert crawler finely embroidered into taut fabric. In the Catawba Indian Nation tribal member’s work, the mythos of the American West lives on, inspired by a nomadic upbringing across the country with his military family. 

Nickola Pottinger, Her Sirens of the sea, 2022.

Nickola Pottinger

A hand-mixer is Nickola Pottinger’s most-used artistic tool. With the device, she regularly grinds up family documents and other archival materials to create pulp for sculpting. In Her Sirens of the sea, 2022, a set of dentures enters the mix. 

The Jamaican-born artist calls her unique sculptural forms duppies, the Jamaican Patois word for “ghosts.” Her work is currently on view at Mrs. in Maspeth, Queens with “like yuh neva lef’ yaad.” In the exhibition, running through March 9, the artist has fashioned a chair with human feet and a bench with the head of a crocodile, among other works. 

Zoe McGuire, Mantle, 2024.

Zoe McGuire

New York-born Zoe McGuire paints landscapes so ethereal they seem to dispatch from another dimension. The twists and turns of color are carefully plotted and studied, an inclination stemming from McGuire’s art historical background. 

Most recently, McGuire had her work featured in James Cohan’s “Arcadia and Elsewhere” exhibition, an exploration of contemporary landscape painting. Her contribution to this auction, Mantle, 2024, appears like a still image of the sun, and burns with a blistering heat. 

The “For Folk’s Sake!” auction will run from March 7 - 21 on