Critics Are Split About Madonna's Son's Hidden Artistic Talents

He's a mystery, up-and-coming artist whose work has been endorsed by Madonna and can fetch up to five figures.

However, when it was discovered that "Rhed" was none other than the singer's oldest son, Rocco Ritchie, there were raised eyebrows.

According to sources, the 21-year-old, Madonna's kid with ex-husband Guy Ritchie, has quietly established himself as an expressionist painter, with many exhibitions at the Tanya Baxter Contemporary gallery in Chelsea, west London, since 2018.

However, since PageSix revealed Ritchie's identity, there has been debate about whether his success is due to his skill or the power of his parents' fame.

It's difficult to deny that Ritchie is Rhed. Both are the same age, attended Central Saint Martins and the Royal Drawing School, and grew up in the same cities. Madonna and Guy Ritchie even reunited with their spouses and children at the Tanya Baxter Contemporary in 2020 for an unannounced show.

So, what are our impressions of his work? According to Tanya Baxter, the gallery's curator, Rhed depicts the human body with thickly applied oils and expressive brushstrokes.

Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Paula Rego, and Helmut Newton are among his influences. While his paintings include "psychological tension," Baxter claims he offsets this by employing a bright palette and "playfully painting looming figures in the middle of the canvas, often set against a monochromatic abstract backdrop."

"With an eclectic cultural background and a childhood spent in New York and London, his paintings exude an engaging mix of innocence and confidence," she continues.

Rhed has said that he is "fascinated by the inner and outer worlds, particularly where they collide." His paintings convey the notion that "beauty exists in the struggle of life" - more beauty, he is reported as saying, than when life is easy.

Rhed's art has been compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy by the King's Road gallery, which is promoting a number of favourable reviews, including one from Mervyn Davies, a former head of the Royal Academy. "Good artists transform energy into something beautiful that is pleasing to the eye," Davies explains. "Anyone can be a painter, but it's all about making other people think and feel."

Godfrey Barker, an arts critic, described Rhed as "an true, clean, and unadulterated creation of the twenty-first century... Rhed has yet to be compared to the Golden Youth, the group of artists that shocked the globe at Frieze in 1988. He will, however, be named in their company. He makes a compelling statement about anxiety in the present and predicts the future."

Jonathan Jones, an art reviewer for the Guardian, was less pleased, claiming that the artist had been thrust into the spotlight too quickly.

Jones described his paintings as "clumsy adolescent efforts with no sign of originality or vigour." "Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that he will improve as an artist over time." Painting needs effort.

As a result, it seems a pity that Rhed has been thrust into the spotlight when he is clearly not a true artist at this time. These scribbles are amateurish, somewhat like Picasso or Modigliani, and might have been done by a million teenagers."

"The gallery should be ashamed of cynically pushing this unready youngster on the market," Jones continued. They compare him to Banksy and Basquiat, but the only street they remind me of is the King's Road, where this type of mediocre art is likely to sell to affluent snobs."

"It's a shame when artists create work that looks like modern art instead of contemporary art," The White Pube, a collaboration of arts reporters Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad, said.

These paintings seem to be a mix of Modigliani, fauvism, b-side Picassos, and a more obvious Bacon style, with the result being fresh works that feel old, flat, and finished. And the dramatic reveal:'suspiciously accomplished child in the art world secretly has enormously wealthy renowned parents' is not shocking nor novel, but it is garbage."

Rhed's work is available for sale on Artsy for up to £24,000. It remains to be seen if the world should have permitted Ritchie to continue using a false identity.

We reached out to the Tanya Baxter Contemporary for comment.

Thanks to at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story. 

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