Meet the Auction Artist: Richard Hunt (BFA 1957, HON 1979)

Richard Hunt. Image courtesy of the artist

Richard Hunt. Image courtesy of the artist

by Peyton Sauer (BFA 2022)

Meet the auction artists! Richard Hunt is one of scores of School of the Art Institute alums and faculty members who donated work to the SAIC Art Auction, with proceeds benefiting student scholarships.

At the corner of Randolph and Garland Court, just a few blocks away from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Sharp Building, the sculpture We Will (2005) reaches boldly toward the sky. This 35-foot stainless steel sculpture is just one of several Richard Hunt (BFA 1957, HON 1979) works in the city. He is considered one of Chicago’s most prolific and accomplished sculptors, and throughout his career (which spans nearly seven decades) he has made an enormous contribution to public art in the United States.

Today, several of Hunt’s sculptures can be found throughout Chicago, including Freeform (1991) on the façade of the State of Illinois Building, Hero Construction (1958) in the Art Institute of Chicago, and Book Bird (2022), a sculpture for the Obama Presidential Center commissioned this year. Over the years, Hunt has held more than 150 solo exhibitions and has works in more than 100 public museums around the world.

A Chicago native, Hunt grew up on the South Side, first in Woodlawn then in Englewood. From an early age, Hunt showed enthusiasm for the arts. His mother, a beautician and librarian, brought him to performances by local opera companies. He gained an awareness of business and politics from working for his father in a barbershop. Hunt also immersed himself in the cultural and artistic heritage of Chicago through lessons at the South Side Community Art Center and attended the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago summer program in the seventh grade.

After graduating from Englewood High School in 1953, Hunt began attending SAIC, where he focused on sculpture work and studied lithography. As a student, Hunt taught himself how to weld and worked with copper, iron, steel, and aluminum to create a series of figures that combined organic and industrial subject matter.

An image of steel sculpture "Hero Construction." The sculpture resembles a person standing upright.

Richard Hunt (BFA 1957, HON 1979), Hero Construction, 1958, steel. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Richard Hunt (BFA 1957, HON 1979), Hero Construction, 1958, steel. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

While Hunt was still a student at SAIC, he began to gain national recognition. He began exhibiting his sculptures nationwide, and in 1957 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York acquired his sculpture, Arachne (1956). Upon his graduation from SAIC in 1957, Hunt was awarded the James Nelson Raymond Foreign Travel Fellowship, allowing him to visit Europe, where he learned to cast bronze. Following that trip, Hunt served in the United States Army from 1958 to 1960 as an Army illustrator.

In 1968, Hunt became the first Black visual artist to serve on the National Council of the Arts, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1971, when he was just 35 years old, the MoMA celebrated Hunt with his first retrospective. During his career, Hunt has received 16 honorary degrees and served on over two dozen boards, committees, and councils.

At 86 years old, Hunt still works from his studio in Lincoln Park—the same space he’s been creating work in for almost 40 years.

Auction bidding opens on Artsy on November 1. Check out more info about the SAIC Art Auction–including bidding, events, and other artists who donated work–at our auction site.