Mickalene Thomas: A Star Is Born? See the Artworks Top Artists Made Before They Were Famous

Vittoria Benzine, ArtNet News, October 25, 2022



The artists were all winners of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant, an early incubator for artists like Sarah Sze, who took home one of the inaugural awards in 1997, as well as Kehinde Wiley, a winner in 2002, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby in 2012.


Arts-engaged television executive Rema Hort Mann died of stomach cancer at age 30 in 1995. Her parents, art collectors Susan and Michael Hort, convened around a kitchen table to establish the foundation soon after, to honor her memory. Since then, a rotating jury has awarded emerging artists through a closed-call nomination process involving dozens of leading arts professionals.


This year, 110 artists were invited to apply. Jurors included Susan Hort, White Columns director Matthew Higgs, curator and art consultant Racquel Chevremont, painter Trudy Benson, and 2017 grant recipient Atone Konst.


The bittersweet anniversary also coincides with the death of Rema’s brother, Peter Hort, earlier this month. He also died young, at the age of 51, from another rare cancer diagnosed during the pandemic. Peter oversaw the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s applications to its Quality of Life Cancer Grant, which has distributed more than $8 million to 2,000 cancer patients, to arrange family visits, childcare, and more, during treatment. He also led the foundation’s Guardian Angel project, which commissions leading artists to create sculptural angel pendants and pins for patients. Tom Otterness’s 24-karat gold edition was auctioned at Sotheby’s this month.


On November 1, the foundation will commemorate these multifaceted milestones with a 500-seat anniversary gala in Manhattan. The sold-out affair, which includes a direct-from-artist auction of 120 artworks, intends to raise more than $2 million, while honoring the 2007 grant recipient Mickalene Thomas, as well as Rema’s widower, Billy Mann, and breast cancer survivor Marianne Boesky, alongside oncologist Elisa Port. All sales directly support grants.


On the eve of the 25th anniversary, we look back at a few of the original portfolio submissions by some of art’s biggest names—when they were still just emerging artists.



Mickalene Thomas, 2007



Mickalene Thomas, I Can’t See You Without Me, 2007

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