By Carter B. Horsley
The Contemporary Art auction at Phillips de Pury November
12 and 13, 2009 is highlighted by an impressive painting by Yayoi
Kusuma, a Brillo box by Warhol, a very good Gilbert & George
work, works of considerable humor by Carroll Dunham, Jules de
Balincourt and Shi Lifeng, and
good sculptures by Tony Cragg, Katja Strunz and Fred Sandback.
Lot 9 is a large acrylic on
canvas by Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) entitled "Infinity Nets
(T.W.A.)." It measures 76 1/4 by 102 inches and was executed
The catalogue provides the
"Yayoi Kusama was born
in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929 and she passed her crucial years
of early adolescence while her country was at war. During this
time, Kusama recollects experiencing her first hallucinations
that have plagued her throughout her life. During these hallucinations
Kusama sees the world broken up into patterns or completely covered
in dots. Kusama credits these hallucinations as being a source
for her artistic vision and the genesis of the Infinity Nets.
Kusama was trained in Nihonga painting, a rigorous formal style
developed during the Meiji period (1868-1912) that combines traditional
Janpanese techniques and materials with nineteenth century European
representivative subject matter. By 1950 she began to experiment
with more abstracted natural forms and in the years that followed
started to develop the patterns of the Infinity Nets from
motifs based on natural observation into autonomous abstraction....Kusama
produced her first astonishing Infinity Net paintings,
vast canvases entirely covered in rhythmic undulations of small,
thickly painted loops, in 1959."
"I feel as if I were driving
on the highways or carried on a conveyor belt without ending until
my death. This is like continuing to drink thousands of cups of
coffee or eating thousands of feet of macaroni," the artist
is quoted as stating in the catalogue entry.
The entry also provides the
following commentary by L. Hoptman from "Yayoi Kusama, London,
"Kusama has described
obsession with the use of this pattern as a means of self-annihilation,
however, her unceasing ability to create sublime beauty with this
pattern is a re-affirmation of her persona. It has been said of
many artists that they are inseparable from their work, but never
has that been more literally and visually true than with Kusama.
As the artist, who even often dresses herself to blend in to her
paintings, has brought this intensely personal signature, which
is linked to her very psychological make-up, to become 'her alter
ego, her logo, her franchise and her weapon of incursion into
the world at large."
It has an estimate of $300,000
to $400,000. It sold for $842,500 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article. Of the 40 lots offered
for sale in the evening auction, 31 sold for $7,099,250 including
premiums, almost exactly in the middle of its pre-sale estimates
Lot 16 is a painted plywood
box entitled "Brillo Soap Pads Box" by Andy Warhol (1928-1987).
It measures 17 by 17 by 14 inches and was created in 1964. It
has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $842,500.
Lot 10, "Spell of Sweating,"
is a fine work by Gilbert & George (b. 1943 and 1942) that
consists of 15 hand colored photographs. It measues 89 by 125
inches overall and was created in 1998. It has an estimate of
$180,000 to $250,000. It sold for $206,500.
Lot 40 is a delightful work
by Carroll Dunham (b. 1949) entitled "Another Island"
whose cartoon-like motif is reminiscent of Philip Guston and Red
Grooms. An acrylic, enamel, pastel and pencil on linen, it measures
60 by 77 inches and was executed in 1989-1999.
"The phallus-nosed character
is the most well known of Dunham's forms. He is a wanderer through
mountains of trash, a sailor peering through the landscape of
dirt and waste. We don't know whether he is lost or doomed, or
simply without purpose or end. His company on this journey, the
second figure, is strange and unsettling, rounded shapes penetrate
the silhouette and we suddenly recognize hints of luscious lips,
a supple breast, and chattering teeth. She is partially submerged
in water, wading her way along their journey, while he floats
in this make-shift boat and peers into the distance. They are
perhaps the actors on the stage of sexual conflict amidst warfare
It has an estimate of $80,000
to $120,000. It sold for $104,500.
Another work of momentous imagery
is Lot 39, "Ambitious New Plans," by Jules de Balincourt
(b. 1972). An oil on board, it measures 40 1/8 by 59 3/4 inches
and was executed in 2005. It has an estimte of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $119,500.
Lot 35 is a very graceful and
striking wall sculpture by Katja Strunz (b. 1970) consisting of
three separate wooden pieces and measuring 68 by 29 by 5 1/2 inches
overall. The untitled work was created in 2005. It has an estimate
of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $27,500.
Lot 29 is a large, untitled
abstraction by Albert Oehlen (b. 1954). An oil, metallic paint
and varnish on canvas, it measures 95 by 79 inches and was executed
in 1989. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold
Lot 31, "Paysage ave Lac
(Landscape with Lake), is an impressive and large work by Tony
Cragg (b. 1949). It is made of oil stick on found wood and found
metal and measures 82 by 99 by 64 inches and was created in 1985.
"This series of work was
inspired by memories Cragg had of driving, noticing shapes as
they pass by, some standing out and others constantly blurred
or shifting along the horizon. The scribblies all over the surface
function like a map tracing the rapid motion of the eye as it
gazes out of the window and follows the passing objects. The forms
transform before our eyes into things our memories recognize:
the shape of a building, the silhouette of a tree, the outline
of a lake. The dichotomy of reinventing materials, yet recalling
old memories is a truly fascinating and unparalleled concept.
Lanscape with Lake is a formation of something foreshadowed
in the mind, but that does not actually exist in the natural world.
It has an estimate of $80,000
to $120,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 161 is a fine oil on paper
laid down on masonite by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997). Entitled
"Bewitched Woman," it measures 29 7/8 by 11 inches and
was created in 1965. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 160 is a very good untitled
ink wash and crayon on paper by Arshile Gorky (1904-1948). It
measures 11 by 8 1/2 inches and was executed in 1946. It has a
estimte of $35,000 to $45,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 159 is a sumi ink and graphite
on paper by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997). Entitled "Woman
Study," it measures 10 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches and was created
in 1959. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It failed
Lot 124 is a rather delicate
composition of 23 karat gold on cut paper by Jim Hedges (b. 1957).
It measures 16 by 22 inches and was created in 2004. It has an
estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. It sold for $50,000.
Lot 280 is a lively and colorful
abstraction that is reminiscent of small of Willem de Kooning's
late works. It is an oil and acrylic on canvas by Sue Williams
(b. 1954) and is entitled "Shoes Take a Backseat (Green,
Orange and Blue). It measures 96 1/8 by 104 1/2 inches and was
executed in 1998. It has an estimate of $45,000 to $65,000. It
failed to sell.
One of the auction's more striking
works is Lot 320, "Paternity Test (Self-portrait with parents),"
by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle (b. 1961). It is a triptych of three
photographs mounted to Plexiglas, each 70 by 20 inches. It was
executed in 1999 and is part of the artist's DNA-Portrait series.
The catalogue notes that the artist uses "genomic technology
to critique the infamous tradition ofcasta (caste) painting in
eighteenth and ninetteenth-century Spain." "During that
time," the entry continued, "Spanish colonials commissioned
casta paintings to illystrate the different racial 'mixtures'
that were developing in the New World. Himself a Spanish immigrant,
Manglano-Ovalle's work frequently explores issues of race and
acculturation in the United States. It has an estimate of $15,000
to $20,000. It sold for $16,250.
One of the more humorous works
in the auction is Lot 209, "Ferry To Happiness," by
Shi Lifeng (b. 1968). An oil on canvas, it measures 52 by 70 inches
and was executed in 2006. A very animated take on "Washington
Crossing the Delaware," its bright red figures practically
leap off the boat and canvas. It has a modest estimate of $7,000
to $9,000. It sold for $11,500.
Lot 341 is a fine work by Will
Cotton (b. 1965) entitled "Insatiable." An oil on canvas
that measures 56 1/4 by 84 inches, it was painted in 1996. The
central figure in the painting appears to have consumed all the
deserts ever painted by Wayne Thiebaud and is very content and
ready for more! The lot has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
It failed to sell.
One of the most beautiful works
in the auction is Lot 224, "World #8," a C-print mounted
to aluminum wiith Plexiglas face by Rund van Empel (b. 1968).
It measures 41 5/8 by 59 3/8 inches and was created in 2006. It
has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $68,500.