Artist Shantell Martin x New York City Ballet


BRITISH ARTIST Shantell Martin has turned her bold, black-and-white line drawings into a cottage industry. Over the past decade, Martin has parlayed her work into a series of high-profile exhibitions, projects, and collaborations.

In her latest venture, she’s transformed Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, home of the New York City Ballet (NYCB). Combining lines, words, and faces, her stream-of-conscious works are displayed along the multi-level promenade that looks down on the main lobby where she’s also installed a massive drawing that extends across the entire floor.

For its 2019 Winter Season, NYCB commissioned Martin to create the installation as part of its Art Series. She is the seventh artist to participate in the initiative, a series of collaborations with contemporary visual artists.

Martin’s website succinctly describes her practice: “With a meditative process defined by an uninhibited flow, her compositions embody her internal state and the impermanence of the world around her. Exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity and play, Martin is a cultural facilitator, forging new connections between fine art, education, design, philosophy and technology.”

“Exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity and play, Martin is a cultural facilitator, forging new connections between fine art, education, design, philosophy and technology.”

The NYCB project follows similar interventions where Martin has taken over spaces with her mesmerizing compositions. She covered an entire 7,000 square foot outdoor plaza in Denver with her work. She’s also mounted immersive installations at Tiffany & Co., in Milan, and Chandran Gallery in San Francisco. Her work has also been presented in museums, including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn and Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. Recent collaborations have included Kelly Wearstler, Max Mara, and her Shantell Martin x PUMA collection was launched last year.


Artist Shantell Martin draws while members of the New York City Ballet rehearse on stage. | Photo by Roy Rochlin, New York City Ballet


BORN IN LONDON, Martin graduated from Camberwell College of Arts and Central St. Martins where she studied graphic design. She lived in Japan for five years, where she was a visual DJ of sorts in the avant garde club scene, using a projector to produce live drawing performances with DJs, dancers, and musicians.

She moved to New York City in 2009. It took a while, but Martin soon found her footing and has used her ink pen drawings to land a string of creative opportunities. She’s an adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Interactive Telecommunications Program. For two years, she was a visiting scholar at MIT’s Media Lab.

In 2017, she collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on a performance at Art Basel Miami Beach. In 2018, Martin was invited to do a three-month residency at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The arrangement was the first-of-its-kind at the storied institution.

This month, Brooklyn-based Martin debuted her work with the New York City Ballet. In the process of conceiving her installation, she watched the dancers rehearse and interviewed several to understand their craft, their personal expression, and their rigor, discipline, and relationships with their bodies.

At its core, Martin’s work asks “Who are you?” a concept that resonated with the prestigious ballet company’s dancers. She made a video about the project that explains how she works and features NYCB dancers.

The ballet company’s 2019 Art Series includes three special performances (Feb. 2, Feb. 8, and March 2) with reduced ticket prices and post-performance festivities related to the visual art initiative. Meanwhile, Martin’s installations will remain on view from Jan. 22-March 3, 2019. CT


TOP IMAGE: Artist Shantell has installed her signature black-and-white drawings in the lobby areas of David H. Koch Theater where the New York City Ballet performs. | Photo by Roy Rochlin, Courtesy New York City Ballet


FIND MORE about Shantell Martin on her website


Artist Shantell Martin’s line drawings naturally lend themselves to a coloring book format. She created a unique version. “WAVE: A Journey Through the Sea of Imagination for the Adventurous Colorist” unfolds into a nine-foot-long panel.


Using New York City Ballet dancers as her canvas, Shantell Martin explains how her bold lines become fully realized works. | Video by New York City Ballet


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