This gypsy woman with sparking eyes and quick verb is little known in Spain, but she became so high-demand painter in the art market that between July 2014 and June 2015, it had been paid more than 554.000 dollars for twelve of her works.
Lita Cabellut is one of Spain’s most successful artists, but she’s barely known in her home country.
From street girl that “did small works for prostitutes” in the singles club of her mother, to the orphanage and from there to an adopted girl by a family that changed her life: “I knew to steal very well, but that were not useful already. I said many swearwords, I could not say it any more. I know eat with the hands better than any more, I should no longer do it. All what I had learnt to survive, all that had to disappear”, she explains.
Looking back, she says that “art, of course, was there because art is always around us”, but she didn’t think about it in a formal sense – she was preoccupied with survival.
“A child never recognizes art as something separated. I sold imaginary stars on the streets. Is that not a true performance of art? But for me it was a way to survive.”
She didn’t go to school and it never crossed her mind that one day she would become one of Spain’s most successful artists. “My expectations were to be a dancer, to fly, to run, to be stronger than all children around me. The expectation of a child is always the same – poor or rich, we want to be superheroes,” she says.
She discovered her passion for painting at Prado Museum (Madrid) and at 19- 21 years old she studied at Gerrit Rietveld academy (Amsterdam).
She paints portraits – Coco Chanel, Charles Chaplin or Frida Kahlo…- and she paints portraits of people that are considered “ugly”, “people with very big ears or noses”, because she tries to show “what there is under the skin”.
She puts her canvases through a lengthy chemical process to give them a rough and edgy texture and uses techniques that range from “17th-Century studio painting to street art”.
Some of her larger portraits are two metres high – and for a couple of years she had to be suspended from ropes to reach the top of them. She couldn’t stretch after she was involved in an accident in Paris – she was knocked over and injured by a police officer who was chasing a thief.
Although Cabellut has held solo exhibitions in London, Dubai and Seoul, she has yet to gain public recognition in her native Spain. Two shows in 2017 are aimed at remedying this: a retrospective at Barcelona’s Antonio Vila Casas foundation, and an exhibition at A Coruna’s contemporary art museum where her studio will be recreated.
images © Lita Cabellut