Austin Lee is an American artist who combines digital drawings and traditional painting techniques to create work that is both classic and whimsical.
Early Life and Education
Austin Lee was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1983. He was raised in Philadelphia. Lee focused more on the sport of boxing in high school than he did on art, but his interest in art led him to enroll in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. After receiving his BFA in 2006, he set up a studio and small gallery in Philadelphia and went on to complete his MFA in painting from Yale in 2013. Lee moved to New York after graduating from Yale.
Austin Lee set up a large studio in Long Island City, Queens in 2013. He combines his classical training with digital technology. He does a lot of sketching when planning a particular painting or sculpture, sometimes doing the preliminary drawings on an iPad. He then moves on to a computer to enhance the image, using Photoshop or a VR Oculus headset.
He turns the VR drawings into paintings or sculptures, sometimes using an airbrush, sometimes more traditional techniques.
Lee says that he was influenced by many Pop artists like Philip Guston, Roy Lichtenstein, Mary Heilmann and other greats like Pablo Picasso and Alex Katz. The many portraits he draws of friends were influenced by Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of Ginevra Benci.
His first major solo shows were in London and New York in 2014. Every year since, Lee has had great international success in Paris, Stockholm and Shanghai and Milan.
In 2016, Lee was named by artnet news as one of the 10 Emerging Artists to Keep on Your Radar “with the potential to shape the future of contemporary art”.
In 2017, his works were shown at Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo, which earned Lee additional international recognition.
He currently has a solo exhibit at Peres Projects in Berlin called Tomato Can (a boxing term for an opponent with poor skills, easily defeated) and an upcoming solo exhibit at the M Woods Museum in Beijing.
Kristen Tauer. Austin Lee Mounts Solo Exhibition ‘Feels Good’ at Jeffrey Deitch. Womens Wear Daily. March 6, 2091.
Afrodet Zuri. Studio Visit: Austin Lee. Cool Hunting Magazine. March 21, 2019.
Paige Silveria. Austin Lee’s 3D Reality. Office Magazine. August 22, 2018.
Flora Alexandra Ogilvy. Of El Greco and Emoticons: An Interview With Artist Austin Lee. artnetnews. December 28, 2016.
Will Heinrich. Spring Gallery Guide: SoHo. The New York Times. April 26, 2019.
Scott Indrisek. Austin Lee’s Feel-Good Art Is More Complicated Than It Seems. Garag Magazine. March 13, 2019.
Jack Ridley. Exhibition // Austin Lee’s ‘Tomato Can’ at Peres Projects. Berlin Art Link. February 16, 2017.
Michael Groth. OK Tablet Computer. Hyperallergic. February 21, 2014.
Austin Lee in his studio, with VR headset, 2019
Leonardo da Vinci
Portrait of Ginevra Benci, 1474–1478 at the National Gallery in Washington, has been the inspiration for Austin Lee’s portraits of friends and family.
Installation detail of Austin Lee’s portraits at Postmasters Gallery, 2014
Exhibit detail, 2019