NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, will celebrate the leading lights of modern and contemporary art offering 49 seminal works in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale taking place on the evening of May 11. Led by extraordinary works by Yves Klein and Andy Warhol, the auction will offer collectors highly important examples by Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Roy Lichtenstein, Chris Ofili and Christopher Wool. The sale will directly follow the evening auction of Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton which also takes place on May 11, and is led by Jasper Johns' Flag, 1960-66 (estimate: $10 million to $15 million).
Robert Manley, Head of Christie’s New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale said: “The quality exhibited by this sale demonstrates how much the psychology of the market has shifted over the past year. It has become evident that the world’s top collectors are eager to consign in a market, which is once again, realizing record prices.”
Yves Klein’s ANT 93, Le Buffle, 1960-61 (“The Buffalo”), (Estimate: $8-12 million), leads the sale and is a monumental work from the artist’s celebrated Anthropométrie series. Standing almost 6 feet high and over 9 feet wide (70 x 110 3/8 in. / 177.8 x 280.4 cm.), ANT 93, Le Buffle (“The Buffalo”) is a dramatic work from the last great series created by the artist before his untimely death at the age of 34. Painted in the signature ‘International Klein Blue’ – the artist’s specially patented pigment for which he is most recognized– it is a work that captures the artist’s fascination with movement, form and the artistic process. Over a giant support, Klein created the series by orchestrating the movement of curvaceous women as they writhed on the surface of the picture coated in his signature, using the female form as the paintbrush. Offered for the first time on the auction market, its sale coincides with the first major American retrospective of the artist’s work for 30 years, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers which will be held at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., from 20 May to 12 September 2010 and The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, from 23 October 2010 to 13 February 2011.
Yves Klein (1928-1962) , Anthropométrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93), pigment and resin on paper laid down on canvas, 70 x 110 3/8 in. (178 x 280.4 cm.). Executed in 1960-1961. Est. $8,000,000 - $12,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: The Artist, Paris
Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature: P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1969, p. 110, no. ANT 93 (illustrated).
Exhibited: Oslo, National Museum of Contemporary Art; Tampere, Sara Hildén Art Museum and Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yves Klein, April 1997-March 1998, pp. 38-39, no. 22 (illustrated in color).
Notes: Executed in 1960-61, Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) presents the viewer with an absorbing, immersive picture surface in which Yves Klein's patented IKB, or International Klein Blue, has been vigorously smeared across by naked models, their bodies' imprints merging together to form a colossal, abstract entity that conveys some notion of orgiastic energy. This work belongs to a small group within the wider bracket of the Anthropometries, Klein's last great series, referred to as the Anthropophagies. This reference to cannibalism was explicitly contained in the title of the closely-related Anthropophagie grande bleue: Hommage à Tennessee Williams, now in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; another similar work is in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. It is a clear tribute to the quality of Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) that, in a photograph taken in his Paris apartment at 14, rue Campagne-Première, Klein himself is shown sitting with his friend and fellow artist Martial Raysse with the picture hanging prominently on the wall.
Klein was one of the greatest of artistic pioneers in the post-War period, pushing back the boundaries of what art could and indeed should do. As well as the highly influential use of ritual in his artistic oeuvre and in using new media such as air, sponges and fire, Klein revolutionised the nature of painting itself. In an era that was marked by such developments as the drip painting of Jackson Pollock, the Informel movement and the iconoclastic innovations of his own friend Piero Manzoni, Klein made several incredibly influential leaps within the field of painting, especially in the form of his monochrome works and his Anthropometries. These truly cemented the meteoric success of his career, which was tragically cut short in 1962 just as he was beginning to enjoy widespread international recognition. Importantly, Klein saw himself as part of an ancient tradition, as old as consciousness itself. As his friend, the art critic Pierre Restany wrote, 'The blue gesture launched by Yves Klein runs through 40,000 years of modern art to be reunited with the anonymous handprint, as sufficient as it was necessary in that dawn of our universe, that at Lascaux or Altamira signified the awakening of man to self-awareness and the world' (P. Restany, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern, 1994, p. 175). He thus linked works such as Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) as much to Abstract Expressionism as to the spectral hand silhouettes picked out in blown pigment on the cave walls of Neolithic man. It is perhaps with reference to ancient art that Klein named this work the "Buffalo": the flicking limbs visible at the right of the picture recall the legs of the running bison dating from 14,000 years ago in the caverns of Lascaux, linking Klein to another dawn of awareness as he ushered in his Blue Epoch.
During the 1950s, Klein had developed his monochromes, which he most often created in IKB, harnessing the power of that uniquely affective pigment. 'What is blue?' he asked, discussing the mystical intensity of this color. 'Blue is the invisible becoming visible... Blue has no dimensions. It exists outside the dimensions that are part of other colors' (Klein, quoted in O. Berggruen, M. Hollein, I. Pfeiffer, (ed.), Yves Klein, exh. cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 48). For Klein, his monochrome works existed without perspective, without detail, and thus became completely absorbing infinities, recalling the depth of the sky, allowing his viewers to be absorbed and to become aware of their place as part of the wider living Universe: 'the authentic quality of the picture, its very being, lies beyond the visible, in pictorial sensitivity in the state of prime matter' (Klein, quoted in P. Restany, Yves Klein, trans. J. Shepley, New York, 1982, p. 47).
In order to heighten his own sensitivity to the universe while creating those works, he often had naked models wandering through his studio. 'My models laughed more than a little when they saw how I created the exquisite blue monochrome, limited to one color, after their images!' Klein recalled. 'They laughed, but they felt more and more attracted to the blue. One day it was clear to me that my hands and tools were no longer sufficient to work with the color. I needed the model to paint the monochrome painting' (Klein, quoted in Berggruen et al., op. cit., 2004, p. 126). He thus began to use models themselves as his medium, covering them in paint which they would then press against the picture surface: 'My brushes were alive and remote-controlled' (Klein, quoted in ibid., p. 126).
One earlier monochrome had been painted in a spectacle organized by Klein in the home of Robert Godet in 1958, but its result was completely different, as she covered the entire surface in blue; also, Klein was perturbed by the degeneration of the atmosphere of the soirée. This new innovative procedure, with his "remote-controlled" brushes, instead produced an incredibly direct and vivid transferral of the sensibility and the life force to the picture surface, as is clearly the case in Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) The whirlwind of activity, captured in the blue imprints that stretch across so much of the surface, are thrown all the more into relief by the way in which the rest of the support has been left, unlike in the 1958 example, in reserve, resulting in a picture that even invokes the Oriental notes of classical Chinese landscape painting in its composition.
In the majority of the Anthropometries, Klein's models had pressed their bodies against the picture surface, whether it was on the wall or on the floor, and then pulled away, usually leaving identifiable imprints of their torsos; here, by contrast, the viewer sees the frenetic traces of movement, captured vividly in his blazing pigments. Some people considered the Anthropometries to be a form of return to figuration for the artist; Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) and its sister Anthropophagies in Paris and Bilbao disrupt this. Here, instead, the traces of the women, though vivid and vivacious, have dissolved, and so too has any sense of individualism dissolved. In this sense, in the Anthropophagies Klein has managed both to create a work that, as a focus of our contemplation, will absorb us into the Blue in order to make us sensitive to the vibrations of the living Universe around us; at the same time, in a deft union of medium and message, the process by which it was made and the appearance itself perfectly express this intention in the manner in which the individual imprints and traces have become a sprawling, frenetic, chaotic entity in their own right.
The reference to cannibalism in the word Anthropophagie was appropriate to Klein's intentions in several ways. Firstly, it referred to his belief that he was living in an age in which the world and humanity were absorbed in manic consumption and self-consumption. It also referred to the communion, a perfect theme for Klein the mystic. The biblical invitation to, "Take, eat, this is my body" is echoed in Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93)'s sumptuous, energetic mass. Here, rather than being measured, man is being consumed, as Klein invites his viewers to contemplate the picture and become aware of their place as part of infinity, to dissolve into the Immaterial, absorbed within the greater expanse of the Void. This is made all the more intense by the presence of the smeared IKB, 'material, physical Blue, offal and dried blood, issue of the raw material of sensibility' (Klein, quoted in N. Root, "Precious Bodily Fluids," pp. 141-45, ibid., p. 142).
Essentially, the marks in Ant 93, Le BuffleAnthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) convey the immediacy of existence itself. The energy of life has been converted into pure form, into a haze of blue. Klein had become increasingly interested in ways of capturing and channelling motion in part through contact and collaborations with his friend and fellow artist, Jean Tingueley, and in a sense, that is one of the aspects captured in this work, in its maelstrom of captured movement. Klein often associated his Anthropometries with Judo, in which he was a black belt and an instructor: the women were pressed against the surface in the same way that the wrestlers were flung against the mats, and that concept of struggle is clearly embodied in the battle-like series of movements that have resulted in Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93). Klein had been partially inspired by the marks left, either by impact or sweat, of the wrestlers thrown down in Judo, and has transferred some of that notion of action into this work, lending it an existential aspect that intensifies the degree to which this mark-making process, involving real people in direct contact with the support, has so powerfully conveyed the life force of the protagonists. To a degree, Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93) is a relic, the evidence of those movements in the early 1960s, an eloquent proof of life.
It is in this context that one of the most important influences for Klein's Anthropometries must be considered, that of the shadows of people left in Hiroshima by the blast of the atomic bomb. Klein himself had seen these during his time in Japan in the early 1950s, and had been haunted by their strange poetry. 'Hiroshima, the shadows of Hiroshima. In the desert of the atomic catastrophe, they were a witness, without doubt terrible, but nevertheless a witness, both for the hope of survival and for permanence - albeit immaterial - of the flesh' (Klein, quoted in Stich, op. cit., 1994, p. 179).
Klein's experiences in Japan had a huge impact on his entire belief system, his mythology, his incorporation of ritual and mysticism into his art. And stylistically, be it in the gold screens, the Zen gardens, the calligraphy or the Judo, his surroundings during his time training there in the early 1950s left a great imprint. While there is a calligraphic aspect to the balanced yet chance-dependent composition of Anthropom/aetrie "Le Buffle" (ANT 93), it has also been suggested that the process itself may have owed its creation to Klein's time there. In an article written with Jean-Yves Mock for the catalogue of the important 1983 retrospective of Klein's works at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Shinichi Segi recalled a conversation he had had with the artist during his time in Japan. They were discussing the traditional Japanese technique of pressing a dead fish into ink and then against a picture surface in order to capture all the more vividly the impression of its scales. This technique is called gyotaku; yet when Klein, with his French accent, tried to say that, it sounded like he had said jyotaku, a mispronunciation that he enjoyed as it resulted in its being a woman, not a fish, whose imprint was being made.
In addition to Klein, Christie's will also be offering works from several artists associated with the Zero Group including Piero Manzoni’s Achrome, 1958 (estimate: $3-4 million) and Jan Schoonhoven’s R60-27, 1960 (estimate: $300,000-400,000).
The sale will include five works by Andy Warhol, and will be led by the iconic images Silver Liz (estimate: $10-15 million), Holly Solomon (estimate: $7-12 million) a stunning double self-portrait of the artist, titled Self Portrait, 1964 (estimate: $5-7 million).
Silver Liz, 1963, by Andy Warhol (estimate: $10-15 million), is considered one of the artist’s most personal works, reflecting his passion for one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars. It is a shimmering Pop icon and an early example of his silkscreen canvases. With impeccable provenance of the Ferus Gallery, Leo Castelli Gallery and the distinguished collection of Mr. and Mrs. Holly and Horace H. Solomon (from which the cover lot also comes), this painting is one of the most iconic pieces of Warhol’s work still in private hands. It was included in the artist’s ground-breaking shows that made him the most famous artist in the world, including the Ferus Gallery in 1963, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1965 and his first traveling retrospective in 1970. Central to his pantheon of Pop icons, which included Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elvis, Silver Liz immortalizes Elizabeth Taylor as the embodiment of the cult of celebrity.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Silver Liz, signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 65' (on the overlap of the left panel) spray enamel, synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on linen diptych--40 x 80 in. (101.6 x 203.2 cm.) Painted in 1963. Estimate: $10,000,000 - 15,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Horace H. Solomon, New York, 1965
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1986
Literature: R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 290, no. 93 (in error cat. 434 illustrated).
R. Crone, Das Bilderische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, no. 102. G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 1, New York, 2002, pp. 394 and 400, no. 433 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited: Los Angeles, Ferus Gallery, Andy Warhol, September-October 1963.
Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol, October-November 1965 (single panel exhibited).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Photographic-Image Exhibition, January-February 1966, no. 31.
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol, October-November 1966, no. 14.
Pasadena Art Museum; Chicago,Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe-museum; Paris Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, February 1969-June 1971, (Eindhoven, no. 140; Paris, no. 22; London, p. 93, no. 28 illustrated).
Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Zweihundert Jahre amerikanische Malerei, 1776-1976, June-August 1976, no. 53 (illustrated).
Notes: This magnificent, double-paneled Silver Liz from 1963 is one of Andy Warhol's most alluring works, conceived out of his obsession for one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars. It is a shimmering icon of the Pop Art movement that contains many of Warhol's key ideas and themes. Painted at the very birth of the Pop Art movement, the work combines his love of celebrity and pop culture with an early example of his silkscreen work in one glittering work. With its impeccable provenance of the Ferus Gallery, Leo Castelli Gallery and the distinguished collection of Mr. and Mrs. Horace H. Solomon, this painting is one of the most iconic pieces of Warhol's work still in private hands.
Central to his pantheon of Pop icons, which included Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elvis, Silver Liz immortalizes Elizabeth Taylor as the embodiment of the cult of celebrity. Warhol was infatuated by her beauty and her glamour, becoming excited at the mere mention of her name. 'Ohhhh, Elizabeth Taylor, ohhhh. She's so glamorous' (A. Warhol quoted in K. Goldsmith, I'll be your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, New York, 2004, p.26). The painting's glistening silver background acts as a luminous mirror, reflecting her blushing skin, as well as her trademark scarlet lips and sultry eyes.
As a canonization of the actress and as a comment on the manufactured nature of fame, Warhol achieved his desired aesthetic effect in the iconic Silver Liz by employing silkscreen. As a process that he had begun on an experimental basis in 1962, Warhol recognized both the instant electricity and underlying artificiality it generated; indeed, the inky superimpositions of photo-derived screens on the bright hand-painted hues epitomized Pop in their brand-like distinctness and recognizability. Using the Duchampian methodology that he brought to his previous celebrity portraits such as the Marilyns, he created Silver Liz using a publicity image of the actress, later cropping the bust-length image just below the chin, and sizing the screen to an enlargement of this detail.
Warhol's decision to use silver for the first of his Liz silk-screens was inspired by his love of color, which became an important part of his aesthetic. He first began using silver in 1963, the year that Silver Liz was painted, and most of his silver canvases were produced during a brief burst of activity between April and July of that year. For Warhol silver was the color of Hollywood glamour and the silver screen. His love of the cinema goes back to his childhood when, as he was growing up in Depression-era Pittsburgh, he became totally enamored with the movies. He spent Saturday mornings frequenting his local movie house, watching stars like Marlene Dietrich and his childhood idol, Shirley Temple. During his many bouts of childhood illness he would comfort himself by immersing himself in his favorite reading material, his collection of movie magazines. Growing-up being bathed in the silvery light of the movie theater clearly had its effects of Warhol. It not only started a life long infatuation with the color but also provided him with much source material for his later work, these two factors combining beautifully in Silver Liz.
Warhol was also immediately captivated by the associations the color had with pop culture and the aesthetic possibilities it had for his art. In contrast to gold and its links with old fashion luxury and the ancient world, he thought silver had far more potential. 'Silver was the future, it was spacy [sic] - the astronauts wore silver suits - Shepherd, Grissom and Glenn had already been up in them, and their equipment was silver too. And silver was also the past - the Silver Screen-Hollywood actresses photographed in silver sets' (A.Warhol in POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Orlando, 1980, p. 83). Silver was also the color that defined, for Warhol, the age of high consumerism and all that was modern. It was aluminum foil and cans - clean, malleable and ultimately disposable and it was also chrome - the material of rockets, jet planes and fast cars.
Unlike Marilyn Monroe, whose suicide had prompted Warhol to create his first image of her in 1962, Liz Taylor was very much alive when Warhol turned his attention to her in the spring of 1963. She was the perfect subject for his artistic eye being beautiful, rich, and famous yet with a life touched by unhappiness and tragedy. When Warhol painted Silver Liz, Taylor was at the height of her career, having been paid the unprecedented sum of $1million to star in Cleopatra. She was never out of the spotlight, constantly being photographed attending glamorous parties and movie premiers. Despite being at the height of her professional career her personal life was not so happy. Her marriage to Eddie Fisher was fizzling out amid rumors she was having an affair with her Cleopatra co-star, Richard Burton, a side to her life that would have undoubtedly appealed to Warhol's narcissistic and celebrity infatuated nature.
Originally produced as a single canvas of Elizabeth Taylor in 1963, a second, blank silver canvas was added to the work in 1965. Much has been written about Warhol's use of blank canvases and, in truth, the real reason behind this method of working will probably remain as allusive as the true personality of Andy Warhol himself. Warhol would certainly have known the precedence for using this kind of device, including many works by artists that he admired. He would have been familiar with the "blank" canvases being produced during the immediate Post-war period, such as Yves Klein's vibrant, electric-blue monochromes and Robert Rauschenberg's White paintings. He was undoubtedly drawn to the idea of the mysterious, multifarious nature of this canvas and heightened the impact of this by placing it immediately adjacent to an image that was instantly recognizable to anyone who saw it.
The beauty of the work's two identically sized panels is also reflective of Warhol's other great love, the cinema. Joined together, the iridescent panels replicate the effect of the individual frames of a film. This effect was seen when Silver Liz was originally shown, with the others in the series, at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1963. In this context Warhol was recreating Liz Taylor's image as he would have originally seen it, larger than life, projected on a wall for the consumption and admiration of others.
This use of a blank canvas attached to the main image also mirrors the layout of a magazine, with the centerfold breaking the image into two distinct parts. In the spring of 1963, at the time Silver Liz was painted, Warhol was still being commissioned by Harper's Bazaar to produce layouts for them and would have been familiar with this format and the visual possibilities that it offered. By leaving the second canvas blank, it is conceivable that he was striving to draw attention to the neighboring canvas and by setting up this kind of disruption causing the viewer to stop and think and focus on the existing image more carefully. The possibilities of this device clearly found favor with Warhol as he used it in a number of other important works, such as his Red Disaster (1963). Situating the blank canvas as the left element also builds on the convention in western society of reading from left to right. By placing the blank canvas on the left, Warhol invites a split second of contemplation before allowing us to revel in Liz Taylor's aura as the culmination of the whole aesthetic experience.
1963, the year Silver Liz was painted, was also the year that Warhol began to capitalize on his growing fame and started to produce commissioned portraits of wealthy admirers. Ethel Scull 35 Times (it became 36 in 1968 when another panel was added) became the first in a series of pictures produced for customers who wanted to cash in on Warhol's own celebrity status. Although he was beginning to gain substantial financial benefits from his work, Silver Liz was not conceived for commercial gain. It was done out of pure love and devotion for a woman he adored. When Taylor finally received her own version many years later she wrote to Warhol, "Dear Andy, I'm so proud I finally have your 'Liz' and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me. I do love you." Elizabeth or Liz (of A.W.'s fame) March 21, 1977.
Andy Warhol's Self Portrait, 1964 (estimate: $5-7 million) also finds its origin in the unmediated snapshot of a four-for-a-quarter Times Square photo-booth. The distinguished provenance of the present work clearly indicates the significance of its place within the history of Pop Art, as it found its first home in the Scull collection, whose early support helped Warhol to become the most influential artist of his age. It is a further testament to the importance of this Self Portrait that it was included and prominently displayed in Warhol's internationally touring retrospective in 1970.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Self-Portrait. Signed twice, dated and inscribed 'to Ethel & Bob Scull sincerely Andy Warhol ANDY WARHOL 64' (on the overlap of the red panel); signed again 'ANDY WARHOL' (on the overlap of the blue panel), diptych--synthetic polymer, metallic paint and silkscreen inks on canvas, 20 x 32 in. (50.8 x 81.3 cm.). Painted in 1964. Est. $5,000,000 - $7,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Stable Gallery, New York
Robert C. and Ethel Scull, New York
Their sale; Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 1986, lot 17
Gerald and Sandra Fineberg, Boston
Their sale; Christie's, New York, 13 November 2002, lot 8
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature: G. Glueck, "Renoir 'Robbed' Them," The New York Times, 17 January 1965, Section 2, p. 20 (illustrated).
T. Hess, "Private Faces in Public Places," Art News, vol. 63, no. 10, February 1965, p. 38 (illustrated).
C. Willard, "Eye to I," Art in America, vol. 54, no. 2, March-April 1966, p. 58 (illustrated).
U. Kultermann, The New Painting, New York, 1969, p. 27, no. 61 (illustrated).
J. Coplans, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 95 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 158, nos. 164 and 165 (illustrated).
J. Wilcock, The Auto-Biography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 1971, p.69 (illustrated).
A. Boatto, "Andy Warhol," Data, vol. 1, no. 1, September 1971, no. 3 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, nos. 324-325 (illustrated).
J. Stephan, Andy Warhol: A Radical Theological Study, Ann Arbor, 1976, p. 144 (illustrated).
L. Thorpe, Andy Warhol: Critical Evaluation of His Images and Books, Ann Arbor, 1980, fig. 1.1 (illustrated).
Gendai Hanga Center, Andy Warhol, Tokyo, 1983, p. 69 (illustrated). D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 158, pl. 153 (illustrated). L. Romain, Andy Warhol, Munich, 1993, no. 134 (illustrated in color).
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2002, p. 245 and 267, no. 1245 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited: Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Andy Warhol, February-March 1968, p. 4 (illustrated).
Pasadena Museum of Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk von Abbemuseum; Museé d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, May 1970-June 1971, p. 95 (illustrated, Pasadena and Chicago).
Kassel, Documenta 7, vol. 1, June-September 1982, p. 64 (illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; London, Arts Council, South Bank Centre, Hayward Gallery and Paris, Museé National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, February 1989-September 1990, p. 83, no. 2 (illustrated in color).
Notes: The stark frontality of Andy Warhol's Self-Portrait of 1964 finds its origin in the unmediated snapshot of a four-for-a-quarter Times Square photo-booth. This mechanized mode of image-making came to dominate Warhol's portrait paintings in the early 1960s, and is vividly remembered by his famous multi-panel portrait commission Ethel Scull 36 Times of 1963. The distinguished provenance of the present work clearly indicates the significance of its place within the history of Pop art, as it also found its first home in the Scull collection, whose early support helped Warhol to become the most influential artist of his age. It is a further testament to the importance of this Self-Portrait that it was chosen to be part of Warhol's extremely selective internationally touring retrospective in 1970-71, which he explicitly ordered to be limited to representative examples of his series of soup cans, disasters, Brillo boxes, flowers and portraits.
The severely simplified visage that stares back at us in double vision from this painting is crisply screen-printed on two separate panels, placed side by side by the artist. Their flat, high-keyed colors--acra violet skin, Factory silver hair and the all-American blue and red backgrounds--are brought into shrill tension by an overlay of black and the elimination of all half tones. These brash hues echo Warhol's unusual look in real life but they are too intense to be naturalistic and only act to heighten the unreality of the image. Both panels reveal their background color through the eyes of the artist--one blue pair, one red pair--creating a strange Dr. Jekyll meets Mr. Hyde duality. This symmetry encourages the viewer to search out the similarities and differences between the impersonal leitmotif of Warhol's face, which mimics the mass-produced nature of his Campbell soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles in its label-like minimalism. Warhol would often rely on this system of pairing for the success of his paintings as the cloning of images so neatly mirrored the infinite repetition of cultural images by the mass media. However, no other examples of this portrait exist as a pair or in any other multiple configurations. It is distinctive in this series in its illustration of Warhol's ideas of seriality, where concepts of originality and uniqueness and constantly deferred.
Warhol loved how the photo-booth took most of the artistic decision-making out of his hands. Its prescriptive setting democratized its subject by ensuring the head and shoulders of the sitter were centered at a set distance from the camera and were always lit the same way. His trademark silk-screen transfer technique also provided a means of keeping a distance from his subject. Instead of painting in a conventional manner, Warhol deliberately detached himself from the artistic process. He utilized the instant snapshot as if it were a found object then replicated an assembly line effect with his Factory assistant Gerard Malanga to create the a perfect embodiment of art in the age of industry. 'Paintings are too hard,' Warhol said, discussing this process. 'The things I want to show are mechanical. Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine, wouldn't you?' (quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 140). Yet despite this nod to full automation, there always remains an element of human creation to his paintings, however distant. The all-too-human slippages, uneven application and imprecise registration of the silk-screened image are cultivated accidents that undermine the implications of Warhol's methods. The hand-applied, localized color to the face, hair and background also make the paintings exclusively his, just as it did in the movie star portraits of late 1962 and 1963.
In these earlier paintings, Warhol had depicted such public figures as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy in the dispassionate manner of his images of consumer products, addressing their status as constructed, mass-marketed icons. In doing so, he forged a new type portraiture that overtly stated the divide between public and private personas. These portraits fed on the public's appetite for celebrity and banished the tropes of conventional portraiture such as individuality and psychological insight. They also mirror the mechanisms by which an unknown person could be transformed by fame, but how in the process personal identity could often be lost. Warhol's self-promoting Self-Portrait likewise conflates consumer culture with his own identity, revealing his personal ambition to become a star, while his private persona remains hidden from view.
This diptych forms part of the artist's second series of self-portraits to be created during the upswing of his fame. Warhol had first taken up the theme of self-portraiture in late 1963 on the urging of Ivan Karp who had told him, 'people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame - they feed the imagination' (A Warhol, quoted in POPism, New York, 1980, p. 17). Like the ebullient painting of Ethel Scull, Warhol's first self-portrait series juxtaposes a selection of stills culled from strips of photo-booth images, with the compositions becoming animated by expressive poses and an almost filmic sense of montage. Warhol uses disguise and theatricality to stage his personality in these works, representing himself as a hounded celebrity in trench coat and dark glasses as if he were trying to escape the glare of popping paparazzi flashbulbs. Their staginess makes them purposefully elusive and they disclose little about Warhol's inner life but reveal much about his consciousness of the artificiality of personal image.
The early 1964 date of this Self-Portrait series follows closely on from the first but they take an entirely different approach. Here, he has selected and repeated a single exposure, effectively removing the element of time or any sequential narrative. The image becomes static, even more a sign of commoditization and branding for public consumption. Of all the self-portraits Warhol would go on to produce throughout his career, this one is remarkable as it appears to be the least performative in nature. There is no evasion by costume, shadows, camouflage or gesture, which would often serve his need to remain enigmatic. Warhol certainly admitted he preferred to be a mystery to others, stating, 'I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it different all the time I'm asked' (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg "Andy Warhol: My True Story," The East Village Other, 1 November 1966). The exposed nature of his frontal positioning in this portrait seems entirely straightforward, yet the mask has not been entirely dropped here. Warhol's defiant stance still manages to cultivate an air of detachment and impersonality and direct eye contact is avoided by the tilting of his chin, making it the viewer who is being observed, while the artist remains resolutely aloof from his audience.
The blank, unanswering gaze of Self-Portrait shares an overwhelming affinity to a police mug shot. In fact it was in April of the same year that Warhol presented his Thirteen Most Wanted Men paintings at the New York World's Fair. These grainy portraits, lifted from FBI posters advertising for the arrest of notorious criminals, identified them as stars of sorts, thanks to their appearance in the public barrage of images. The paintings elicited a storm of controversy when they were mounted onto the Fair's building exterior and following complaints from government officials, Warhol was given 24 hours to remove or replace the mural-sized canvases. He instead chose to obliterate the images with a layer of silver pigment. This act of negation was worthy of the Dadaists at their height, and indeed the paintings themselves including the present work, can be credited to the influence of Marcel Duchamp, a key member of that iconoclastic art movement.
It is no coincidence that Warhol addressed the notion of using criminals as the subject of his art, and in turn blatantly identifies himself as an outsider/outlaw in his Self-Portrait during this period. The previous year, Warhol attended the opening of Duchamp's retrospective exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum while he was in Los Angeles for his own exhibition of Liz's and Elvis's at the Ferus Gallery. He was enormously impressed by the show and it would surely not have escaped his attention that its promotional poster featured a tongue-in-cheek work from 1923 in which the French artist's front and profile mug-shot was pasted beside the declaration: WANTED/$2000 REWARD. Warhol's own Self-Portrait appears to have absorbed the lesson of this artwork and developed it in an entirely new direction. The impassive photo chosen for the present work similarly casts the Pop artist into role of "wanted" individual but pushes the implications of Duchamp's idea into the realm of all-out commercialism through the act of repetition. In doing so, Warhol further stresses the relationship between art and economics by showing a willingness to render his own self-image as a unit for sale. He exposes the artifice that underlies self-portraiture while also revealing the fact that his own identity as an artist is subject to the same publicity strategies and market fluctuations as soap boxes and movie stars. No doubt Warhol would have been thrilled that the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting a portrait from this series in 2002. It would have fully realized his fame-seeking ambitions by presenting his image as a logo on actual currency to be distributed around the globe.
The cover lot of the sale. Holly Solomon, 1966 (estimate: $8-12 million), is a nine-panel portrait of the legendary New York art dealer and socialite. In 1966, Holly Solomon was an aspiring actress who, with her husband Horace Solomon, started to build an extensive collection of Pop art. As an avid collector, she became a well known personality around the gallery scene. She already owned a Marilyn painting when she decided to have her own portrait done. The work is based on a single photo booth picture of Solomon and is one of the most celebrated works in the artist's series of silkscreen portraits of art world figures and movie stars of the 1960s. It was unveiled in public at Warhol's first major retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 1966. “Andy Warhol's portrait of Holly Solomon is pure Pop and comes from a period in his career when he was producing some of his most innovative and exciting work. His use of the photo booth snapshots allowed him to mix together elements of "high" and "low" art. The photo booth represented a quintessentially modern intersection of mass entertainment and private selfcontemplation”, comments Robert Manley, Head of Department.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Holly Solomon (detail), 9 panels--acrylic, silkscreen ink and graphite on linen, each: 27 x 27 in. (68.6 x 68.6 cm.); overall: 81 x 81 in. (205.7 x 205.7 cm.) Painted in 1966. Estimate: $7,000,000 - 12,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Holly Solomon, New York, 1966
Her sale; Christie's, New York, 13 November 2001, lot 4
Richard Gray Gallery, New York
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature: Andy Warhol, exh. cat., Stockholm, 1968, n.p. (illustrated).
J. Coplans, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 97 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, pp. 167 and 297, no. 264 (illustrated).
A. Boatto, "Andy Warhol," Data, vol. 1, no. 1, September 1971, no. 8 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, no. 623.
Amerikaner: Kunst aus USA nach 1950. Eine didaktische Ausstellung: Bilder. Fotos. Texte, exh. cat., Düsseldorf, 1977, p. 40 (illustrated).
Holly Solomon Gallery, exh. cat., New York, 1983, p. 19 (illustrated).
"Collaboration Andy Warhol," Parkett, no. 12, 1987, p. 97 (illustrated).
Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, 1989, p. 54, fig. 24 (illustrated).
J. Flatley, "Warhol Gives Good Face: Publicity and the Politics of Prosopopoeia," Pop Out, 1996, pp. 101-103, fig. 1.
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 02B, New York, 2002, pp. 261 and 263, no. 1924 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited: Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol, October-November 1966, no. 32 (illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1967 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, December 1967-February 1968, pp. 13 and 71, no. 149 (illustrated).
Pasadena Art Museum, Painting in New York: 1944 to 1969, November 1969-January 1970, no. 51 (illustrated in color).
Pasadena Art Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, May 1970-June 1971, (Eindhoven, no. 139; Paris, no. 28; London, no. 47 illustrated).
Amherst, University of Massachusetts, Fine Arts Center, Critical Perspectives in American Art, April-May 1976, p. 56 (illustrated).
Milwaukee Art Museum and Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, Warhol-Beuys-Polke, June-November 1987, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum and Miami Art Museum, About Face: Andy Warhol Portraits, September 1999-June 2000, p. 21, no. 20 (illustrated in color).
Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum and Hamburg Kunsthalle, Andy Warhol Photography, May 1999-February 2000, p. 95 (illustrated).
Notes: "I wanted to be Brigitte Bardot. I wanted to be Jeanne Moreau, Marilyn Monroe all packed into one." (H. Solomon, The Andy Warhol Photograph, Pittsburgh, 1999, p.99).
Andy Warhol's portrait of the legendary art New York art dealer and socialite Holly Solomon is one of the most celebrated works in the artist's series of silkscreen portraits of art world figures and movie stars of the 1960s. The large nine-paneled work is based on a single photo booth picture of Solomon which Warhol reproduced in a variety of vivid candy-colors. Holly Solomon, was first exhibited in 1966 at Warhol's first major retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
In 1966, the year Warhol completed her portrait, Holly Solomon was an aspiring actress who, together with her husband Horace Solomon, had started to build an extensive collection of Pop art. As an avid collector she became a well know personality around the gallery scene. She already owned one of Warhol's Marilyn paintings when she decided to have her own portrait done. Originally she wanted to have her portrait produced by the photographer Richard Avedon, but $12,000 was too expensive so she turned to Andy Warhol.
Warhol decided to produce his portrait of Solomon by using the technique of silk screening photo booth portraits that he had developed a few years earlier. The pair went off to Broadway and 42nd Street in New York with $25 in quarters to test each of the photo booths to find the one with the correct exposure that Warhol required for the look hid was trying to achieve. Once Warhol had selected the booth, he left Solomon on her own. As the time dragged on she became bored and began doing some exercises she had been taught at Lee Strasberg's Method acting classes. When the sessions were finished she handed the strips of photographs to Warhol and told him to select whichever he thought would make the best portrait. The frame Warhol eventually selected is highly theatrical. Her head tilted slightly back and to the side, her lips slightly parted and her eyes looking directly out of the frame is highly suggestive of the young starlet that Solomon so desperately wanted to become, akin to a Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe or the seductive young Brigitte Bardot.
This effect was highlighted by Warhol's choice of secondary colors. By selecting the various hues of yellow, violet and green mixed with large amounts of white pigment Warhol produced a makeup-like 'base' which removes many of the facial features and heightens the flattening of the image already started by the photographic process. Warhol counteracts this flatness by using contrasting high intensity colors to highlight the eyes and the lips. He had used this technique of accentuating certain features before, when he produced his pictures of Marilyn and Liz, and in Holly's case the painted eyes and lips accentuate the theatricality of the work and elevates her to star status.
Originally Solomon had wanted Warhol to use her portrait as the basis for a wallpaper to cover the walls of her apartment. Fearing that the resulting images of her would be too small, she also asked Andy to produce larger paintings that they could hang over the wallpaper. Holly received an excited telephone call from Andy to come to his studio and select an image for her portrait. Once they selected one image, Holly agreed to buy three canvases. When she and her husband went to pick up the finished portraits a month later, they found that Warhol had actually produced eight. The Solomon's bought all eight and a ninth canvas was added, when the work was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in October 1966. The Solomon's subsequently acquired the ninth canvas on the condition that Warhol would not produce any further copies.
Andy Warhol's portrait of Holly Solomon is pure Pop and comes from a period in his career when he was producing some of his most innovative and exciting work. His use of the photo booth snapshots allowed him to mix together elements of high and low art. The photo booth represented a quintessentially modern intersection of mass entertainment and private self-contemplation. Once the curtain was drawn the photo booth became a private world in which a person could explore the multiple sides of their personality for as long as they had enough quarters. The mechanical nature of the photo booth was also important to Warhol as it took the human artistic element out of a medium that up until that point has needed some degree of human interaction to achieve the desired result. In Holly Solomon, Warhol fills this vacuum with his own artistic ideas, contrast and the color scheme that helped him achieve the effect that he wanted. As Solomon herself recalled, Warhol was very particular about selected the right booth to achieve the effect he wanted. 'What nobody really understood about Andy at the time, was that he was a great artist. We don't understand that these contemporary painters and artists - when they are good - really understand media. When Andy did a photograph, when Lichtenstein would paint or do a drawing, they understood that medium, and what vocabulary they were going to add to the medium.' (quoted in The Andy Warhol Photograph, Pittsburgh, 1999, p.94).
She wanted a "Warhol" and became an icon in her own right; as famous as a Liz or Marilyn, which she says made her feel "pretty good". Warhol had captured not only her physical beauty but also was able to portray her to be the well-educated woman she was playing the role of the siren. As she says, the work is deliciously ironic for, at the height of the women's liberation movement, Warhol made her "the woman of the time" with all the complexity of mother, muse and intellectual. At first she was a little embarrassed by the seductive quality the portrait revealed. She was shocked that Warhol had chosen a shot which showed the roundness of her face. She said to him, "My face is round and I hate it." To which he replied, "Yeah, Holly. But don't you know that's what's beautiful about you?" "Beautiful?" I said. "Because I had never heard that word. But, great artists seduce you" (quoted in Ibid, p. 69).
Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset), 1977 by Roy Lichtenstein (estimate: $2.5-3 million), is one of the artist’s most significant works of the 1970s. Part of his Surrealist series, Untitled Composition (Figures with Sunset) is one of eight mural-sized works from the series he began in 1977 and completed eighteen months later. Since the beginning of his career, Lichtenstein had established a dialogue with modern masters within his work. This painting demonstrates a great range of influence from his artistic role models, including allusions to the surrealist works of Magritte, Picasso and Leger, which he also combines with references to his own work. The work is an exhilarating blend of wit and symbols realized in his iconic comic book style.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), Untitled Composition, signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '78' (on the reverse), oil and magna on canvas, 84 x 120 in. (213.4 x 305 cm.). Painted in 1978. Est. $4,500,000 - $6,500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Private collection, Florida
Vivian Horan Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
Exhibited: Washington D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, The 36th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting: Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, February-April 1979.
Notes: Executed in 1978, this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Untitled Composition is one of Roy Lichtenstein's monumental and most significant works of the 1970s, consisting of an exhilarating blend of wit and symbols combined with his iconic style and deep appreciation of art history to generate a work that is both visually and intellectually challenging.
Part of his Surrealist series, Untitled Composition is one of eight mural-sized works from the series he began in 1977 and completed eighteen months later. Lichtenstein's energetic adoption of Surrealism might appear odd for an artist, the majority of whose work up to this point had been characterized by the rationality and formal order of comic strips, but it can be traced back to the earliest stages of his career.
During his graduate studies at art school he became interested in the psychology of perception and the problems of pictorial representation and was heavily influenced by the work of Picasso, Klee and Miró. He later became fascinated by the distinctions between so-called high and low art and this led him to produce several bodies of work in which he combined his own unique style with ideas he appropriated from some of the 20th century's greatest artists. Of these, his Surrealist series is certainly regarded as the most successful. In part, it played to the direct connection that Lichtenstein felt between his own ideas and theirs, particularly their shared interest in the use and interpretation of symbols. It also allowed him to set up the visual wit and puns he so enjoyed and allowed him the freedom to make full use of his colorful imagination.
Lichtenstein splits Untitled Composition into two halves, with a distinct male and female side. The left part of the canvas is dominated by the sultry profile of a young woman with flowing, long blond hair and luscious red lips. This clearly cubist portrayal of a woman, with half her face in profile combined with the piercing eye staring straight out at us, pays homage to one of Lichtenstein's biggest heroes, Pablo Picasso. His influence is felt throughout the work, with its disregard for traditional perspective and its reliance on the radical re-structuring of the way art transmits its meaning. Picasso's influence on Lichtenstein cannot be underestimated. When interviewed in 1997 he admitted that he probably wasn't entirely free of it. 'Picassco's always been such a huge influence that I thought when I started the cartoon paintings that I was getting away from Picasso...I don't think that I'm over his influence...' (R. Lichtenstein, quoted by D. Sylvester in Lichtenstein: All about Art, London, 2003, p. 58).
Never afraid to introduce a playful tone to his work, Lichtenstein sets up a visual "clash of the titans" between Picasso and the master of Surrealism, René Magritte. The alluring eye, which stares out from the left section of the canvas, is a clear nod to Magritte's The False Mirror (1928). Long regarded as one of the high points of the movement, it portrays the human eye as the link between the subconscious and conscious world. By taking this motif and superimposing it on top of the "Picasso face," Lichtenstein directly pits Cubism and Surrealism against each other. Homage to several other twentieth century masters are also included with references to Léger's ghost-like figures and the balustrade from Braque's Baluster et Crane.
In addition, the painting is packed with visual references to Lichtenstein's own catalogue of past works. His Sunrise series from 1965 is represented by the radiant sun canvas in the right section of the painting, behind this can be found his folding chair which first appeared in his interior Still Life series from 1976. The abstract image in the lower right of the left half of the canvas relates to his Abstraction paintings from 1975. Other images include elements of his Landscape paintings and the architectural features from his Entablature series from the early 1970s.
While the "female" half of the painting bares more than a passing resemblance to the idealized image of women that Lichtenstein used as the basis for many of his romantic comic-book images, the iconology of the "male" side could be read as very much of a self portrait of Lichtenstein himself. He takes the same motifs from his Self-Portrait (1978) to examine the idea of himself represented as a cipher of his own identity. The stitching on the collar of the t-shirt matches exactly the stitching from his earlier Self-Portrait, but this time the mirror is moved to expose a highly stylized figure taken from Fernand Léger. By consciously using one of Léger's ghost-like forms to represent himself, he is able to engage in an indirect form of critical self-assessment, but in order to reinforce the point that he is the artist in question, Lichtenstein includes one of his iconic Sunset pictures from the 1960s.
The central divide that separates the male and female halves of the canvas also helps to construct many of the visual jokes that Lichtenstein peppers throughout this work. The female's alluring, long blond hair turns into fiery flames as it crosses the center of the canvas and encroaches into the male figure's personal space, a possible allusion being drawn to the flame of a beautiful woman. The hand missing from the empty tuxedo sleeve in the center of the "male half" is mirrored by a three-fingered hand in the left half.
Lichtenstein is not the first artist to borrow ideas from those that had been before him, but as a member of the Pop Art generation his approach to appropriation is a very modern one. He takes elements in the general vocabulary of art that went with his way of working and he restates the work of other artists in his own terms. 'All painters take a personal attitude toward painting. What makes each object in the work is that it is organized by that artist's vision. The style and the content are also different from anyone else's. They are unified by the point of view - mine. This is the big tradition of art' (R. Lichtenstien, quoted in Mural with Blue Brushstroke, New York, 1987, p. 42).
Additional pop masterpieces within the evening sale will include Jasper Johns’ Figure 0, 1959 (estimate: $3-4 million), Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled, 1954 (estimate: $3.5-4.5 million) and Wayne Thiebaud’s Coming and Going, 2006 (estimate: $1.8-2.5 million).
For this sale, Christies will offer three extraordinary paintings by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, including American Christopher Wool’s Blue Fool, 1990 (Estimate $1.5-2 million), British artist Chris Ofili’s Dead Monkey – Sex and Drugs, 2001 (estimate: $1-1.5 million) and German Neo Rauch's Suche, 2004 (estimate: $800,000-1.2 million).
Executed in 1990, Blue Fool by Christopher Wool (estimate: $1.5-2 million), is a quintessential example of the artist’s celebrated word paintings, and at 108” tall, is one of the artist’s largest. Its outsized capital letters leap out off the wall at a volume loud enough to be heard over the noise of the city. The aesthetics are clear and explicit, but the work’s meaning remains more ambiguous.
Christopher Wool (b. 1955) Blue Fool, signed, titled and dated 'WOOL 1990 BLUE FOOL' (on the reverse) enamel on aluminumm, 108 x 72 in. (274.3 x 182.9 cm.) Painted in 1990. Est. $1,500,000 - $2,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1991
Literature: B. Ferguson, "Christopher Wool," The Contemporary, Summer 1998, p. 5 (illustrated in color).
M. Thomas, "Christopher Wool Gives Texture, Meaning to Writing on the Wall," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 28 November 1998, p. D-10 (illustrated).
G. Shearling, "Drop Dead," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 29 November 1998, p. G-2 (illustrated).
Exhibited: Kunsthalle Wien and Frankfurter Kunstverein, Die Sprache der Kunst, Die Beziehung von Bild und Text in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, September 1993-February 1994, pp. 21 and 355, no. 533 (illustrated).
Glenside, Beaver College of Art, Word for Word, September-October 1995.
New York, Cheim & Read, I Am The Walrus, June-August 2004.
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art and Kunsthalle Basel, Christopher Wool, July 1998-May 1999, pp. 54 and 288 (illustrated).
Kunsthaus Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum Lendkai, Warhol Wool Newman, Painting Real, September 2009-January 2010.
Notes: Christopher Wool's brash, explicit paintings were developed against the backdrop of inner city blight and urban deprivation that affected most large cities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Blue Fool, a consummate example of Wool's most celebrated word paintings, is intrinsically linked to the post Punk scene of New York, its energy and attitude running through the very heart of the work.
Its outsized capital letters leap out off the wall, seemingly barking insults at a volume loud enough to be heard over the noise of the city. Yet while the aesthetics are clear and explicit, the work's meaning remains more ambiguous. The participants in this dialogue remain anonymous with the short and perfunctory exchange becoming part of the millions of similar exchanges that take place everyday. In both its visual and subconscious meaning, Blue Fool is very much a product of New York in the Punk years.
The four large blue letters that spell out the word 'FOOL' are tightly constrained by the edges of a large, flat white aluminum support. Wool's use of gigantic lettering and his refusal to allow these letters space to breath creates an intimidating atmosphere. The letters dominate the room and being constrained by the tight edges of the work gives them a sense of being pushed out of the picture plane. This sense of foreboding is heightened by the typeface. Similar to the Stencil font adopted by the U.S. military after the World War II, Wool's typeface matches it in its utilitarian nature and these elements combined with its physical size creates a sense of stark authority.
Wool's emergence as a painter in the early 1980s coincides with a period of soul searching within the art world about the state of painting. In his 1981 essay "The Death of Painting" the influential critic Douglas Crimp condemned the belief in painting and the investment in the human touch that was perceived to be crucial to maintaining painting's unique aura. It was into this environment that Wool began his exploration of the painterly process and the different techniques that could be used to expand its properties. Wool began using words as imagery as early as 1987 after seeing a brand new white truck with the words 'SEX LUV' hand-painted across it. This first collection of word paintings was created during an intensely creative period for the artist and focused on words or phrases with multiple meanings. The effect was often only achieved when Wool broke them up in the composition of the painting. His 'AMOK' becomes 'AM OK' when enlarged to fit the scale of his canvas. Blue Fool, with the large letters that spell out 'FOOL', corresponds to the letters of the artist's name and simultaneously pokes fun at the viewer and at the same time creating a humorous self-portrait.
Wool's work is drawn from a variety of sources both inside and outside the art world. Like many artists of his generation he was concerned with the intrinsic nature of painting and was particularly interested in the process of applying paint on a surface. He was attracted the works of Richard Serra, and his sculptures of splashed lead in particular. These ideas became central to his ideas of process and the covering of surfaces in relation to painting, and to picture making in particular.
"Wool's work shares Pop Art's affection for the vulgar and the vernacular, and in form it recalls Pop's graphic economy of means, iconic images and depersonalized mechanical registration" (M. Grynsztejn, "Unfinished Business" in A. Goldstein, Christopher Wool, Los Angeles, 1999, p. 266). The no-frills lettering recalls Minimalism, especially the word works of Joseph Kosuth. However, where Kosuth's works are deliberately self-constrained, hermetically sealed by the words that they formed, Wool's Blue Fool is rogue; it is disjointed and points to the ambiguity of language. In this respect, Wool's word paintings have been seen as an attempt to illustrate the limitations and convulsive nature of language. By breaking up the words into their constituent parts and making the viewer reinterpret the meanings of those words used in his paintings, he highlights the underlying failure of language as an effective and objective way of communication.
Chris Ofili’s Dead Monkey – Sex and Drugs, 2001 (estimate: $1-1.5 million) is the final canvas from a trio of paintings called Monkey Magic. The painting encompasses many of the personal and artistic challenges the artist was facing at this pivotal point in his career. Superbly representing Ofili’s unique ability to mix racial, religious and cultural themes to produce works of amazing beauty, it became one of his favorite works. “It’s a kind of moralistic short series…there’s one called Dead Monkey, where the monkey’s died and there’s blood flowing out of the cup and blood flowing out of his mouth, and the sex, money and drugs lying on the ground. But he’s got a sly smile on his face, so he kind of died happy.” (C. Ofili, ‘Paradise Reclaimed’, The Guardian, June 15, 2002). This monumental canvas is one of the largest he has produced to date and shows Ofili’s complex method of building up layers of clear resin to give the work a sense of depth and allows the eye to penetrate into the very heart of work.
Chris Ofili (b. 1968) Dead Monkey--sex, money and drugs, signed, titled, and dated '"Dead Monkey--sex, money and drugs", 2000 Chris Ofili' (on the overlap and on the stretcher)oil, polyester resin, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on canvas, 76½ x 120¼ in. (194.3 x 305.4 cm.) Painted in 2000. Est. $1,000,000 - $1,500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002
Literature: J. Jones, "Paradise Reclaimed," The Guardian, 15 June 2002, p. 18. L. Wolgemott, "Fabulism," Art Papers, vol. 28, no. 3, May-June 2004, p. 53.
B. Goodboy, "Fabulism," ArtUS, no. 4, September-October 2004, p. 42.
D. Adjaye, T. Golden, et. al., Chris Ofili, New York, 2009, pp. 116-17 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited: Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum, Fabulism, January-April 2004, pp. 21, 50 and 51 (illustrated in color).
Notes: Ofili's Dead Monkey - Sex and Drugs is the final canvas in a trio of paintings called Monkey Magic. The painting encompasses many of the personal and artistic challenges the artist was facing at this pivotal point in his career. Superbly representing Ofili's unique ability to mix racial, religious and cultural themes to produce works of amazing beauty, it became one of his favorite works. 'It's a kind of moralistic short series. There's one called Dead Monkey, where the monkey's died and there's blood flowing out of the cup and blood flowing out of his mouth, and the sex, money and drugs lying on the ground. But he's got a sly smile on his face, so he kind of died happy' (C. Ofili, "Paradise Reclaimed," The Guardian, June 15, 2002).
This monumental canvas, one of the largest he has produced to date, is a highly intricate blend of mystical, ghost-like images layered over psychotropic arcs of brightly colored disks, glitter and polyester resin and images composed entirely of tiny dots of paint. Ofili's complex method of building up layers of clear resin gives the work a sense of depth and allows the eye to penetrate into the very heart of work. It also liberates each of the elements and allows them to float and dance across the surface of the painting. The drug references and multi-layered construction are similar to the work produced by his American counterpart, Fred Tomaselli.
Dead Monkey - Sex and Drugs is the direct pre-cursor of Ofili's epic The Upper Room installation at Tate Britain in London. Inspired by the monkey motif used in the present lot he felt it had more to offer him in artistic terms and began to make some monochrome paintings in red, blue and black. Ofili continued to produce these canvases in various colors until he had twelve. He then produced a thirteenth, larger golden version which was installed at the head of the group. Similarities to the Last Supper are clear in both the iconography of each canvas - the holding up of the chalice in offering of the Holy Communion - but also in the manner in which the paintings were installed, six pairs of work facing each other as if sitting at a long table.
Ofili's work is characterized by a number of motifs that appear regularly and represent many of the artist's social concerns and experiences. The monkey is one of the most important of these and appears in his most important works. The image used for this particular work is based on Andy Warhol's golden collaged Monkey from the artist's days as an illustrator in the early 1950s. With the monkey leitmotif, Ofili reaches back to the are historical tradition of using monkeys to represent the evils of lust and sin. Their close evolutionary links to humans allows them to portray the base desires of which humans will never be free, they can indulge these urges without any of the consequences humans would experience in their highly regimented and moralistic society.
Another important motif Ofili included in Dead Monkey is the use of dried elephant dung, which he first began using after a study trip to Zimbabwe in 1992. He was particularly fascinated by how much information the local trackers could determine about the animals simply by looking at what they'd left behind. Attracted by this multi-faceted nature, he took some dried elephant and cow dung and stuck it onto a painting to see what aesthetic effects it produced. He was pleased with the result and continued to refine his use of this material throughout the next few years.
The 1992 trip to Africa also provided the inspiration for another aspect of Dead Monkey, Ofili's technique of depicting an image using hundreds of thousands of small, pearlescent painted dots. During his Zimbabwe trip he paid a visit to see the prehistoric San cave paintings in the Matobo Hills. He noticed that in addition to the representational paintings of figures and animals the walls were marked by areas covered with dots. The explanation he was given was that it was believed to have been done by someone who did not go out on the hunt but stayed behind and worked in the cave, perhaps in some sort of meditative state. In Dead Monkey he uses this technique to bring a tangible quality to the flat surface of the resin and thereby adding to the richness of the image as a whole.
This painting was produced partly as a response to a particularly challenging time in Ofili's career. In 1998 he was awarded Britain's prestigious Turner Prize for contemporary art. The announcement was greeted by much media debate in Britain's notoriously harsh tabloid press about the value of his art, given its distinctive mix of animal dung, religious iconography and questions of black identity at a particularly difficult time for race relations in the U.K. But even these events did not prepare Ofili for the storm of controversy that would surround the opening of the notorious Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999. The inclusion of the artist's The Holy Virgin Mary became the subject of a vitriolic public debate and the painting so infuriated the city's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, he tried to remove public funding from the museum until the director 'came to his senses' (R. Giuliani quoted by J Nesbitt, 'Beginnings', Chris Ofili, exh. cat., London, 2010, p. 17). After these events Ofili felt the need to withdraw from public scrutiny and moved out of his studio and retreated to his home in attempt to refocus his artistic voice, with the Monkey Magic series being the first major work completed during this time.
No stranger to controversy, his works are often overshadowed by the public reaction to his use of dung and erotic imagery. Despite that Ofili's power as an artist rests in his power as a painter. In an age where contemporary art is dominated by conceptualism and video, Dead Monkey - Sex and Drugs revels in his sheer delight in creating images by putting paint on canvas. His paintings are a Baroque-like celebration of texture and color, whose richness is matched only by the intricacy of their execution. As Ofili has said of his pictures, 'I try to make [the painting] more and more beautiful, to decorate it and dress it up so that it is so irresistible, you just want to be in front of it' (Ofili, quoted in L. Macritchie, ''Ofili's Glittering Icons - Work of Chris Ofili at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, New York", Art in America, January 2000).
Neo Rauch's status as one of the most important painters working today is currently being underscored by a retrospective spanning two museums, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and the Museum der bildenden Künste of his native Leipzig, an unprecented event to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. Painted in 2004, the monumental Suche (estimate: $800,000-1.2 million), represents one of his finest and most complex paintings from a moment when his work began to take on new scale and ambition, specifically looking at nineteenth century narrative painting. The title Suche means "Search" and for Rauch, painting is a quest in its own right, an organic process by which the various elements on the canvas suggest themselves, rearrange themselves, and finally coalesce to form a single dreamlike narrative. In Suche, Rauch is mining his own rich seam of memories and images, rearranging them and reconfiguring them in such a way as to create an image that, while rooted in his own personal iconography, has a gnawing relevance to all viewers.
Neo Rauch (b. 1960) Suche, oil on canvas, 106¼ x 82 5/8 in. (269.9 x 209.9 cm.) Painted in 2004. Est. $800,000 - $1,200,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Galerie Eigen+Art, Leipzig
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature: J. Bowers, "German Turbo," Baltimore City Paper, 18 August 2004, p. 36.
Exhibited: Baltimore, Contemporary Museum, The New Leipzig School of Painting, August-September 2004.
Notes: 'The poetical substance inherent in perceptions from the corner of one's eyes is usually very close to images from dreams. Everyone knows the feeling. You perceive something from this perspective, then you go after it, and then it is gone. (Rauch, quoted in H. Broeker, "The Touchstone of Painting: Neo Rauch's Pictorial Concept and Work Development," Neo Rauch: Neue Rollen: Paintings 1993-2006, exh. cat., Wolfsburg, 2006, pp. 24-25 notes).
Neo Rauch's status as one of the most important painters working today is currently being underlined by a retrospective spanning two museums, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and the Museum der bildenden Künste of his native Leipzig, an unprecedented event to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. This exhibition was included in the New York Times list of 31 places to go in 2010 ('The 31 Places to Go in 2010', The New York Times, 10 Jan 2010). Painted in 2004, the monumental Suche represents one of his finest and most complex paintings from a moment when his work, always managing to coalesce the previously separated histories of Western art and Eastern propaganda and Socialist Realism, began to take on a new scale and ambition, specifically looking at nineteenth century narrative painting. Rather interestingly, the title Suche means "Search" and for Rauch, painting is a quest in its own right, an organic process by which the various elements on the canvas suggest themselves, rearrange themselves, and finally coalesce to form a single dream-like narrative. It is a painting that rewards constant re-analysis as its story unravels in different and surprising ways. The almost Surrealist imagery has one foot firmly placed in the universe of the Brothers Grimm, yet the other is rooted in his own memories and art historical knowledge. In Suche, these combine to result in what appears to be a fragment from a lost Wagnerian opera, a glimpsed moment in the chronicle of some unknown quest.
Suche is a haunting vision of colliding, collapsing utopias, each having proven as elusive as this vision itself, adding another dimension to the sense of searching. The Romantic past, the idyllic landscape, the machinery of the Socialist state, the consumerism and technology of capitalism: these have all been tantalizingly held out as examples of societal perfection and yet have proved ineffable and impossible, mirage-like visions that have little to do with reality. In Suche, there is a nostalgia for hope, a desire for the promises of the past, yet also a cynical detachment which reveals Rauch coming to terms with the fact that, in the West, the artist is disenfranchised as a force for change, unlike in the Cold War-era East. There, or rather then, artists were seen as figureheads, be it within the framework of state-sponsored art or in more underground contexts. One wonders if the confrontation between the monstrous harbinger and the Romantic figure at the café table touches upon this change, with the writing on the wall for the old, respectable order, or whether a new vocation is being offered in the form of the titular world scrawled upon the placard.
Painted on a monumental scale, Suche plunges the viewer into Rauch's idiosyncratic, oneiric universe. The beaked chimera has trailed its tail along the Germanic street, a sign around its neck with the title scrawled across it, like some crazed street-herald of the Apocalypse. The sign also doubles as a limited list of specials of the day: the nineteenth-century dandy of a customer, possibly a scientist on his own quest, is awaiting some strange elixir from the waitress while inspecting minerals. Emblazoned above the door are insects, presented according to some arcane methodology, reinforcing that vestigial hint of scientific logic to this dream-like scene. Meanwhile, another man in what appears to be a sports top is sitting at the same table in a similar plastic chair, petting a black dog that could have emerged from Gustave Courbet's famous melancholy self-portrait, Courbet au chien noir. The landscape behind is itself an intriguing mélange of the old and the new, the industrial and the domestic, with the houses stretching away into the distance towards a verdant, church-punctuated backdrop. The houses are painted in such a way that they could be a grand terrace or they could be a flat stage set.
Rauch has allowed a disparate flow of images to collide in Suche, forging them together to create a liminal world, a vision of life viewed from within the melee itself. He has described his perspective as, 'the view from the corner of one's eyes. The poetical substance inherent in perceptions from the corner of one's eyes is actually very close to images from dreams. Everyone knows the feeling. You perceive something from this perspective, then you go after it, and then it is gone' (Rauch, quoted in H. Broeker, 'The Touchstone of Painting: Neo Rauch's Pictorial Concept and Work Development', pp. 21-33, Neo Rauch: Neue Rollen: Paintings 1993-2006, exh. cat., Wolfsburg, 2006, pp. 24-25 notes). The monster's sign is itself an encouragement to chase those fleeting visions.
It is telling that, when giving a tour of his exhibition Para at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York only a few years ago, Rauch said that he himself had not had time to ascertain precisely what it was about: his pictures remain alive to him after their execution, and the search continues. The intriguing and sometimes disturbing interplays that characterize Rauch's pictures have a surrealistic quality, yet are clearly rooted in a specific set of experiences. Rauch's own background, his training as an artist in East Germany while it was still under Socialist rule, the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall and the Unification have all left their mark. This was especially the case because, from 1990 onwards, artists working in the East suddenly found they had access to a wealth of material hitherto beyond their reach. Painters such as Rauch - who had grown up in a relative, state-controlled cultural seclusion - were suddenly exposed to a flood of media images and vastly-increased opportunities for travel. For Rauch, these all trickled through into his depictions of a mystery-world in flux, tapping into wider issues using his own personal system of elusive visions as a means of depicting a wider malaise. As he has said of his paintings, 'It is more than obvious that there is a problematic core to them which has apocalyptic foundations. My basic artistic approach to the phenomena of this world is that I let things permeate through me, without any hierarchical pre-selection. And from the material I filter out, I then construct a private, very personal mosaic. And if that works well, then patterns appear which point to things beyond what is usually ascribed to the things' (quoted in H. Liebs, "Nothing Embarrasses Me Now," pp. 71-72, Neo Rauch: para, exh. cat., New York, 2007, p. 71).
In Suche, Rauch is mining his own rich seam of memories and images, rearranging them and reconfiguring them in such a way as to create an image that, while rooted in his own personal iconography, has a gnawing relevance to all viewers. It was around the time that Suche was painted that Rauch began to turn to a richer, fuller palette more reminiscent of the Old Masters and of his own teachers such as Bernhard Heisig and Arno Rink, shunning the deliberately faded, mock-print colors of his earlier poster-like works. This invocation of tradition throws the contemporary issues upon the canvas into bolder relief, a tension encapsulated in the depiction of the traditional townhouses using that same mock-print idiom. At the same time, the different techniques and aesthetics on display reveal the artist reveling in his own virtuosity, as he contrasts the highly-modeled features of the figures with the landscape and even with the almost-accidental gestural marks that articulate some parts of the canvas. These inclusions underscore the qualities that have placed Rauch at the forefront of the New Leipzig School, as they force us to acknowledge, 'the structure of the painting, and it is certainly possible that the things I do in the way of enriching the surface run counter to the effect of space, or are a hindrance to the telling of the story. In such cases, I still reveal myself as a painter. Ultimately, painting is the most important thing, even if it doesn't seem that way at that moment' (Rauch, quoted in K. Werner, "Conversation between Klaus Werner and Neo Rauch," pp. 53-55, Neo Rauch: Para, exh. cat., New York, 2007, p. 53).
No. G.A. White, 1960 (estimate: $1.5-2 million), is a striking example of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets Series in which she combines lace-like painting with swathes of impasto to produce a work of touching delicacy. Recently rediscovered in a private collection, this picture was purchased by the late Mrs. Mary Louise Freeman, who acquired the work on a whim from one of Kusama’s first U.S. solo shows at the Gres Gallery in 1960, the gallery which was responsible for introducing Kusama’s work to the American art market. No. G.A. White was the first and last work that Mrs. Freeman ever purchased, and it has remained a point of pride within her family home for the past 50 years.
Kusama’s enthusiastic and energetic application of paint to the canvas clearly has its roots in Abstract Expressionism, but No. G.A. White’s machine-like repetition and purity also appealed to artists who later became involved in minimalism, such as Donald Judd who championed and collected her work. In addition to the Zero Group with which she exhibited, Kusama was also an inspiration to artists who belonged to the Post-Minimalist movement, such as Eva Hesse, as she provided a more sensual and organic repetition that departed from the industrial aesthetic of minimalism. No. Red Q, 1960 (estimate: $1-1.5 million) is another magnificent example of Yayoi Kusama’s appreciation for both the physical and psychological properties of color.
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) No. G.A. White, signed, titled and dated '1960 NO. G.A. WHITE YAYOI KUSAMA' (on the reverse) oil on canvas, 50½ x 51½ in. (128.3 x 130.8 cm.) Painted in 1960. Est. $1,000,000 - $1,500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Gres Gallery, Washington D.C.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1960
Literature: L. Ahlander, "Two Oriental Shows Outstanding," The Washington Post, Times Herald, p. E7 (illustrated).
Exhibited: Washington, D.C., Gres Gallery, Yayoi Kusama, April-May 1960.
Notes: Painted in 1960, No. G.A. White is a striking example of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Nets, in which she combines lace-like painting with swathes of impasto to produce a work of touching delicacy.
The painting was acquired in 1960 by Mrs. Mary Louise Freeman. She was friends with Eleanor Biddle Lloyd, known to all as Lallie Lloyd, a founder of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and longtime chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Lloyd was already a collector of Kusama's work, having owned the artist's stunning green work No. F. In the spring of 1960, they visited one of Kusama's first U.S. solo shows at the Gres Gallery in Washington D.C. The show received rave reviews, with The Washington Post describing it as "outstanding", and, on Mrs. Lloyd's recommendation, Mrs. Freeman acquired the present lot, No. G.A. White, which has since held pride of place in the family home for almost fifty years.
Having already developed a reputation as a leading promoter of international contemporary art by helping to launch the careers of Fernando Botero and Antonio Tàpies, the gallery's owner, Beatrice Perry, went on to play an important role in establishing Kusama's career in the United States. A central figure in the city's art and social scene, she had developed a reputation as a discoverer of new talent. 'I knew her work was something that had not been seen before,' Perry said, 'One way or another, you look at European, American and Japanese art;...her art was completely original because what she sees and how she sees it is totally different' (B. Perry, interviewed in "International Bonds," ArtAsiaPacific, Spring 2006, no. 48, New York, p. 36). The strength of the relationship grew over the next few years, as Kusama recalled, 'After Perry moved to New York, she continued to assist me financially. She also helped me obtain permanent residency. The paintings I did then are in the Museum of Modern Art and other major collections...I think of Mrs. Perry as my mother' (Y. Kusama, Ibid, pp. 36-37).
As an early example of her Infinity Nets series, the defining quality of this work is Kusama's painstaking approach to applying paint to the canvas. The meticulous and repetitive circles of paint are characteristic of the artist at this point in her career, but the present lot stands out due to her inclusion of a band of heavy impasto that moves across the center of the canvas. These dramatic swoops and swirls of thick, white paint crash onto the canvas like waves on a beach, giving the work an energy and vitality which makes this piece such a notable work in Kusama's extensive career.
Kusama's characteristic lace-like patterning continues to shift throughout the canvas with the upper sections dominated by large swoops and swirls which then transform themselves into smaller, more intense areas as the eye tumbles down towards the lower sections of the canvas. By shifting the composition of her painting in this way, Kusama draws the eye across the canvas, sending it in a frenetic journey of discovery that twists and turns with every stroke of the brush.
Kusama traces the roots of her unique style back to her traumatic childhood when she began to experience a specific series of hallucinations when she was ten years old. As she recounted in 1975, 'One day I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on the table, and when I was looking up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe' (Y. Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 35). To achieve this affect, she applies a semi-transparent layer of white pigment over an under layer of black and then adds strokes of more white paint over the top, repeating the act over and over again. Kusama normally works with the canvas placed flat on a table top or other surface, making it impossible to see the whole of the composition while she is working, and, therefore, also impossible to change or alter the composition in response to the work being done. By working in this way, she is forced to abandon any attempt to try and control the whole of the picture plane or construct it out of parts.
'In these paintings, a single passive, undivided planar space is fixed on the canvas (naturally using an approach that is the opposite of the emotional space of Action painting, a central, major trend that emerged in New York), so each microscopic particle is given concrete structure as much as possible, and it reveals the congealing of a strange, gigantic mass. Through repetition of the act of making each touch over time, the layers of dry, white pigment give an infinite concreteness to the space in the middle of the actually visible field...In addition, these paintings entirely abandon having a single fixed focal point or center' (Y.Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama, Tokyo, 2004).
The purity of her work and the predominant use of white aligned her for a time with the Zero Group, a collection of avant-garde artists based in Europe. She was involved in many of their groundbreaking exhibitions, including the 1962 Amsterdam "Nul" show and the "Group Zero" exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. She met with many leading members of the group including the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven, who went on participate in some of her performance events.
No. G.A. White is a supreme example of the work Kusama began producing in response to her move to New York. When she first set up home in the city in the summer of 1958, she arrived with small drawings and gouaches that she had produced in Japan. Soon the format of her paintings began to grow in size and started to include the principal of all over composition and the repetition of more or less identical motifs. Undoubtedly influenced by the move from her small Japanese town to the pulsating metropolis of New York City, her new surroundings fired her creative passions and inspired her to create this new body of work that responded to her new home.
Abstract Expressionism was at the height of its dominance and many artists and critics were already searching for a new direction. By the time she painted the present lot, not only had Kusama found that new direction, she was well down the road to producing a body of work that would prove to be prophetic for many of her contemporaries. Her enthusiastic and energetic application of paint to the canvas clearly has its roots in Abstract Expressionism, but No. G.A. White's machine like repetition also appealed to many of the artists, like Donald Judd and Frank Stella, who became involved in minimalism. She also inspired artists who belonged to the Post-Minimalist movement, such as Eva Hesse, as she provided a more sensual and organic repetition that departed from the industrial aesthetic of minimalism. In addition, she created her white Infinity Nets around the same time that Robert Ryman began investigating the painterly possibilities of the color white, which he began in the mid-1950s, but did not begin showing widely until the following decade.
'My consistent avant-garde approach to art, I think, has exerted a great influence on the art work of American and European artists, as well as other artists...I have been in Pop art, Minimal art, Happenings, Environments, Avante-garde films and others, as well as Zero in Europe...I believe my aspirations will not fade away after I am gone and I want to leave it to those interested in my art as a message from Yayoi Kusama...' (quoted in Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years, Wellington, 2009, p. 5).
Also featured is Lee Bontecou's Untitled, 1962 (estimate: $2-3 million), the most important sculpture from the artist to come to auction. Bontecou's materials - gaping orifices of steel and canvas pulled and stitched like skin - evoke both industrial technology as well as metaphors for the body. In these groundbreaking works, Bontecou built up a heavy armature of metal, which she then covered in scraps of canvas and an array of industrial materials and objects, including screws, zippers, pipes, saw teeth, fan blades and even helmets and masks. The result is a highly charged assemblage, which thrusts outward into the viewer's space with a distinctly aggressive energy. The work comes from the celebrated Abrams Family collection, who acquired the work 40 years ago. The offering coincides with Lee Bontecou’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, “Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense,” April 16 – August 30, 2010.
Lee Bontecou (b. 1931) Untitled, signed 'BONTECOU' (lower right) steel, wood, wire and canvas construction, 63½ x 111 x 20 in. 161.3 x 281.9 x 50.8 cm.) Executed in 1962. Est. $1,500,000 - $2,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.
Provenance: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Schweber, Great Neck
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1974
Literature: D. Ashton, "Illusion and Fantasy: Lee Magica fantasia di Lee," Metro 8, April 1963, p. 31, figs. 6 and 7 (illustrated).
Leo Castelli: Ten Years, exh. cat., New York, 1967, n.p. (illustrated).
Exhibited: New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Lee Bontecou, November-December 1962.
Kassel, Documenta III, June-October 1964, p. 325, no. 3.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, 54th Carnegie International, October 2004-March 2005, p. 73, no. 3 (illustrated in color).
Notes: Lee Bontecou's startlingly original sculptures made her one of the most celebrated young artists in New York during the 1960s. Her complex assemblages allude to both the machine and the organic world, straddling the categories of abstraction and figuration, while also blurring the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Bontecou's formative works exemplify the dynamic expansion of the notion of sculpture during the sixties, and reverberate with the deep anxieties of the Cold War era. As Bontecou declared in the early sixties, her central concern was 'to glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty and mystery that exist in us all and which hangs over the young people today' (quoted in Americans 1963, New York, 1963, p. 12).
Untitled of 1962 is an important and powerful example of her most renowned body of work, her large-scale wall-mounted sculptural reliefs of the early sixties. In these groundbreaking works, Bontecou built up a heavy armature of metal, which she then covered in scraps of canvas and an array of industrial materials and objects, including screws, zippers, pipes, saw teeth, fan blades and even helmets and gas masks. The result is a highly charged assemblage, which thrusts outward into the viewer's space with a distinctly forceful energy. The center of the composition is dominated by Bontecou's signature motif of a black cavity, which here is embedded with a row of threatening metal teeth. Viewing the work in person becomes a psychologically charged encounter.
Bontecou studied painting and sculpture at the Art Students League in downtown New York from 1952 to 1955, at the height of the Abstract Expressionist era, when painters such as de Kooning, Pollock and Kline dominated the art scene and caroused in the Cedar Bar. As Bontecou acknowledged in the late fifties, 'the individual freedom inherent in abstract expressionism energized and electrified the art world, particularly [their] dual use of paint itself as both subject and object. It was from their spirit of individual expression the following generations would be influenced' (quoted in Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective, New York, 2003, p. 172)
Indeed, the overall composition, prominent drip marks, and vigorous expressiveness of Bontecou's Untitled relate it to the heritage of the Abstract Expressionists, even while she took their gestures in a wholly new direction. The influential critic Harold Rosenberg was an early supporter of her work, as it shared some of the vigorous, foreboding and angst-ridden qualities that he had earlier championed in paintings by de Kooning, Pollock and Guston. Certainly, Bontecou's Untitled seems to personify Rosenberg's celebration of "the anxious object." Rosenberg tellingly described Bontecou's reliefs as being composed of "erotically menacing steel" - a characterization that relates, perhaps, to the specter of threatening femininity that de Kooning earlier crystallized in his famous depictions of women, particularly in their gnashing teeth (quoted Action Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976, New York, 2008, p. 175).
Bontecou's sculptures such as Untitled are palpably infused with the atmosphere of violence and angst that pervaded the Cold War era. This work is saturated with an apocalyptic mood, its central cavity suggesting a death machine and surrounding forms evoking gas masks. The soundtrack for works such as Untitled was supplied by the international news programs that Bontecou would listen to in her studio. During the sixties, she described, 'I was angry. I used to work with the United Nations program on the short-wave radio in my studio. I used it like background music, and in a way, the anger became part of the process. During World War II we'd been too young. But at that later time, all the feelings I'd had back then came to me again...Africa was in trouble and we were so negative. Then I remembered the killings, the Holocaust, the political scene' (Ibid.).
Another component of the social and political consciousness that is inflected in works such as Untitled is an allusion to the space race. Bontecou recalled that 'At one time I had a joy and excitement about outer space - nothing was known about the black holes - just huge, intangible dangerous, entities, and I felt great excitement when little Sputnik flew' (quoted in Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective, p. 174). The orifices of Untitled hint at the unfathomable space of black holes, while the sculpture itself seems to be some new technological hybrid. These materials, however, came from the East Village streets around Bontecou's studio, where she scavenged items such as rope, laundry bags, metal bolts, gears, helmets, and army surplus items to transform into her unique sculptures.