By Michele Leight
The Post-War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Sale at Christie's New York May 12, 2011 is packed with edgy gems and contemporary classics, and includes several outstanding works of art from a single collection - "Property from an Important Private European Collecton," such as Robert Indiana's iconic, universally recognized "Love Red/Blue."
This impressive collection spans the past 50 years of art production and includes blue chip paintings and sculpture by Damien Hirst, Mark Quinn, Takashi Murakami and Mark Tansey, who are cited as "the spiritual descendants of their Pop ancestors" (now the veterans) - Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Robert Indiana: "With a strong emphasis on Pop Art and representative of the overall challenges artists have leveled throughout history at modes of conventional representation, these works," according to the catalogue, "question the status of what we see, and how it is transformed into what we consume. Whether cigarettes, drugs, boots, or diamonds, whether starlets, comic book culture, or art history - this collection links artists working in the decades from the 1960s to the present, from Pop Art to postmodernism conveying our universal human concerns and motivations."
Lot 393, "Love Red/Blue," by Robert Indiana (b. 1928) has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,00 (see illustration below). It sold for $4,114,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. It was a world auction record for the artist.
In Christie's catalogue for this sale Robert Indiana's "Love (Red Blue)" is described as "Both a formal abstract configuration and a shaped poem, its dual nature as both imperative utterance and artwork, what Indiana himself described as a 'verbal visual' act, fires an extraordianry sonic and optical intensity. The letters themselves, nestled, rubbing together, insinuate a physicality and tactility that resonate with the intended affect. As a visual image, it is emblematic of a time and place in American socio-political history even as it derives from a torrent of art-historical influences. Finding one's artistic style in 1950s New York would be a struggle for any artist and Indiana acknowledges as much in his hard-edged reductive geometry for 'Love.'"
Christie's Afternoon Sale totaled $34,335,725. Andrew Massad, International Specialist, Head of the Afternoon Session, commented: "With stellar results achieved for classic Post-War works as well as works by edgy contemporary artists, the day sales exhibit a passionate consumer base, eager for exquisite works of art with distinguished provenance. New world auction records were achieved for Marc Quinn, George Condo and Robert Indiana.”
Jonathan Laib, Head of the Morning Session of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Department, remarked: "Christie’s extraordinary season for Post-War and Contemporary art charges through, following Wednesday’s spectacular Evening Sale. The Morning and Afternoon Sessions totaled more than $65 million and sold 92 percent by value and 89 percent by lot.”
There is one iconic and unusually restrained painting by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in this sale, (also "Property from an Important Private European Collection"), entitled "Beatle Boots (Negative)," from his important "Black and White series." The last "shoe" immortalized in Warhol's pantheon of footgear, this work is an unusual synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas painted late in the artist's career. No longer fashionably cool - as they once were - the boots seem like a wistful flashback to the artist's youth and early years spent working as an illustrator:
"Warhol's seeming detachment from society is belied by his late Black and White paintings. Warhol here invests his subjectivity in these pictures, a sense of self-determination within and an opposition toward the commodity culture which had in his view overtaken society (B. Cuchloh, Notes on an Interview with Andy Warhol, New York, 2002, p.21). The painting 'Beatle Boots' is authentic in terms of Warhol's penetrating social and political critique, and while poignant in its banality, it is compelling in its newness, an example of Warhol's ability to 'know how to do something with (his) art' (ibid., p 42). And that 'something' relates to Warhol's interest at the time in the turn to figurative art and the interest in handwork, the antithesis of his early emblematic work. 'Beatle Boots' comes alive in this context, a restatement of prior techniques within an extension of the artist's own subjectivity and overarching social awareness" (Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 396, "Beatle Boots (Negative)," which measures 80 by 72 inches and was executed in 1986, has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $722,500.
Across all artistic disciplines there is evidence of crossing boundaries: from painting into photography and vice versa, and photography uniting with wall sculpture, notably in Lot 326, "Embracing Figures (Partial): Skaters/Cyclist" by John Baldessari, that has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $410,500. Mixed media appears unexpectedly, often so imbedded in the work it is hard to decipher, as in Anselm Kiefer's "painted" photograph, Lot 341, "Die Klage der Heiligen Zeder (The Lament of the Sacred Cedars)," illustrated in this story." This, and several other works of art in this sale reference historical subjects from ancient times to the present:
"Although Kiefer's picture constructions are not illustrations of history, it is useful to know that this particular work takes the epic of Gilgamesh as its dramatic mis-en-scene. Kiefer's surface reference here is a point along the journey of Gilgamesh and his servant companion Enkidu that took them into a forest with a mountain that was green from cedar trees. One motive that prompted this expedition was the need for timber, with which Gilgamesh could display his power by building great walls and temples. The monumental structures required long beams, for which tall cedar trees were perfect...The topographical markings on these pages are as likely to be outlines of a painter's palette as they are cedar growth-rings; the light on the character's faces is as much a fact of photography as it is a reflection of the pessimism inherent in Mesopotamian stories, in which heroes depend on kisses or curses from the gods; and the paths and trees represent contemporary pastoral pictures of what may be the woods near Kiefer's country house (or even woods brought in for studio setup shots) as much as they contract the outer bounds of earth and reality" (Ingrid Sischy, The End of the Avant-Garde? And So the End of Tradition," Artforum, Summer 1981, p.67, in Christie's catalogue for this sale)
Lot 341 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $146,500.
Lot 306, "Katherine of Aragon," by Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948), references our ongoing obsession with monarchy and it is also historically charged, depicting a model posing as the pious first wife of Henry VIII, whose refusal to grant Henry a divorce caused the powerful monarch to go right up the chain of command and challenge the Pope and the Catholic church for one - so he could have a younger, prettier wife (Anne Boelyn), who could also, possibly, bear him a son. The Pope refused and this ultimately created a historic separation of church and state in England. Poor Katherine's trials did not end there. Her only daughter Mary (Queen of Scots) was beheaded on the orders of Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, (the second of Henry's six wives) because she was perceived as a threat, being legitimately in line for the throne. Ironically, despite Henry's belief that only a son should inherit the throne, Elizabeth I is widely regarded as one of the greatest monarchs ever to rule England. This superb photograph captures the commodification of royal women, who were bartered and traded for political gain, even though she was clearly an unsuitable match for a man as worldly and lusty as Henry VIII. The photograph is Property from the Estate of Buck A. Mickel, with an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $170,500. This work is number two from and edition of five. As mentioned in the review of the evening sale, all paintings in an "edition" (or set of photographs), are generally worth the same. The number in the edition does not generally affect its sale price.
In lock-step with our times, many contemporary artists reference socially and politically charged issues or themes, current events and their own histories, simultaneously recording the passage of time. This is especially evident in the "second generation" Pop artists like Damien Hirst and Mark Tansey (b. 1949), and other artists that do not necessarily belong to any particular group, like Kerry Marshall, and Jhang Huan.
Mark Tansey's magnificent, "painterly" paintings owe a great deal to photography and film, but they are rendered so emphatically in their medium, there is no mistaking they are "painted." Technically brilliant and imaginatively conceived, Lot 392, "Study for Columbus Discovers Spain" references a specific historical subject without the yawn-inducing seriousness of some - dare I say it - maritime paintings. There is nothing remotely boring about Mark Tansey's "oevre." He has the gift of igniting curiosity and interest in the subjects he portrays even as he irreverently up-ends history, presents it ironically, or simply uses it for his own ends. In doing this, he brings history to life. It is not surprising that young people are drawn to Tansey's paintings, taking time to connect the dots and follow the clues the artist mischieviously incorporates into them. This is no ordinary feat in a world that is moving faster than at any time in history, and when the attention span of the average young person lasts five seconds, before they are lured away by some other entertainment. Magnificent and fun paintings like this are likely to create maritime painting fans across the globe:
"Following in the noble tradition of maritime painting, Tansey joins the long-standing art historical practice of paintings of ships and their dramatic narratives of turbulent weather or heroic naval expeditions. However, in the present work Tansey does not present Columbus's heroic galleon, the Santa Maria, as triumphantly arriving in the 'promised land' with its sails, flags and pennants flying proudly in the wind. Instead, the ship appears dejected, its remains bearing sagging, wind-torn, almost deflated masts. The implications are of a journey gone terribly wrong. This sense of unease is then reinforced by the artist's inclusion of the rungs of a swimming pool ladder that are strategically placed in the upper right hand portion of the painting, leading us to question our original assumptions about what kind of reality Tansey is trying to reproduce. The inclusion of the swimming pool rungs further confuses the scene. Where an ocean is vast and seemingly infinite, a swimming pool is contained and controlled. Tansey has created a world within a world - a tempest in a teapot. The inclusion of the swimming pool could be construed as Tansey's response to the so-called progress America has made since it was first discovered by Columbus hundreds of years ago. As an icon of conspicuous consumption and materiality, the swimming pool has become the ultimate status symbol for many American families. By combining these two highly emotive symbols together in one work, 'Study for Columbus Discovers Spain questions the nature of American progress." (Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Perhaps best known globally for his politically and socially charged performance art and photographs, Zhang Huan (b. 1965) is also a superb painter. This portrait of an anonymous People's Liberation Army soldier owes a great deal to photography, and is softened by ash, an unusual medium the artist often incorporates into his work. Zhang Huan burst onto the international art scene in the 1990s in Beijing, and, after spending nearly a decade in New York, returned to China in 2005, where he set up a hangar-like studio in Shanghai. There he began another chapter in his creative life, producing a new body of work in mixed-media including beautiful large-scale bronze sculptures, hands of the Buddha, feet, and monumental bells covered in ash, as if excavated in an ancient temple razed by fire.
Christie's catalogue notes: "Zhang has always been inspired by Buddhist principles, and he was originally inspired by incense ash itself as a medium during a visit to Longhua Temple in Shanghai. Soon after he began incorporating it into his works, first in sculptures and eventually in his now iconic ash-paintings, eventually gathering hundreds of pounds of ash weekly from over 20 temples around Shanghai, separating it into different grades and hues. Zhang would transform materials into "paintings," meticulously applying the different shades to build up his images on stretched canvases. In the monumental work featured here, 'Liberation Army,' executed in 2007, Zhang has now mastered his new craft...the tonality of the material is at first severe, softened slightly by the subtle ochre tones of the ash. The surface of the painting is rough and mottled, reminiscent of ancient sculptures work down by time and weather. Once again, the artist is delving into the imagery and collective memory of his generation, finding new means to express his complex feeling on China's cultural and historical legacies."
Lot 358, "Liberation Army," by Zhang Huan, has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $158,500.
Pharmaceuticals loom large in contemporary society. They are all powerful, at once life prolonging, life enhancing, miraculous, curative, destructive, addictive - and life-threatening if misused. Pharmaceutical - legal - drugs dominate our culture. Advertisements for them pop up on every TV channel until we feel they must, surely, work. They dominate the lives of those that do and - sadly - those that do not have access to them, often with tragic outcomes. No artist has driven our powerful drug culture home more emphatically than Damien Hirst, with his famous medicine cabinets jammed with meticulously crafted pills and pill bottles, and in later paintings like Lot 398, "Dicaprin, painted in 2007:
"Striking in its all-over, grid pattern, each circular form, a spot ingrained onto the imagination, insistent in its iterative modernist formal presentation, 'Dicaprin' extends Damien Hirst's interest in serial composition, his 'Pharmaceutical Paintings, from their conception in 1991 to their iterations almost twenty years on. Drug therapies, a simulacrum for immmortality, are thematically foundational for Hirst's work, rehearsed and reimagined in various configurations, The sly presentation of drugs as art, similarly seductive and illustory, creates for Hirst a conundrum not easily solved: 'I can't understand why some people believe completely in medicine and not in art...'" (D. Hirst, "I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now," London 1997, p. 9, in Christie's catalogue) Hirst also said: "I started them as an endless series, a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies' scientific approach to life." (D. Hirst, ibid, p. 246).
"The present work can be traced to the sale at Christie's in Geneva in 1980 of the extraordinary Polar Diamond itself. Fetching an incomparable price, the diamond had been discovered in alluvial sediment in the Krishna River in India toward the end of the 19th century. Coveted by illustrious personages throughout its history, beginning with Joseph Bonaparte and Princess Tatiana Youssoupoff, the near-perfect gem parallels Hirst's own sensational trajectory. Named after Polaris, the North Star, the brightest in the constellation Ursa Minor, its history is synonymous with the birth of Jesus Christ, its location and the subsequent adoration by the magi:' For we have seen His star at its rising' (Gospel of Matthew 2:2.) Hirst plays fully on this association, and carries it into the world of the simulacra, of commodity culture, the diamond a lodestar by which society navigates its hierarchies. 'For the Love of God,' a platinum scull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, created its own sensation in 2007, and its serious intent is clear from Hirst's statement that 'It does make you think about a lot of things though...life, art, beauty...and on and on.'" Christie's catalogue for this sale continues: "A work of sheer beauty, Polar Star dazzles in photo-realist style, even as it challenges our motivations, our desires, and our fantasies."
Lot 390 has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $362,500.
Lot 451, "Sarasvati River Delta," by Marc Quinn, 2009, oil on canvas, 66 1/8 by 97 7/8 inchesAnother technical virtuoso is Mark Quinn (b. 1964), whose beautiful and painterly "Sarasvati River Delta," Lot 451, rivals the floral extravaganzas of the greatest still-life painters of the past. An oil on canvas, it measures 66 1/8 by 97 7/8 inches and was painted in 2009.
Lot 451, "Sarasvati River Delta," has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $302,500.
Lot 391, "Myth Venus," also by Marc Quinn, is a flawlessly executed painted bronze of Kate Moss that measures 120 by 90 by 70 inches and is number two from an edition of three.
The artist said: "For me, Myth Venus is like a square, a circle or a cone, it is the physical manifestation of a Platonic ideal, one we have all created unconsciously together that of the most beautiful woman in the world. The series of sculptures I made of Kate Moss were never portraits of Kate the real person, they are mirrors of our desire for perfection, for the impossible as gods and goddesses were in another Era. Myth Venus is white like a blank cinema screen....I am really interested in the human need to create images which then shape you. We write a story then believe it to be true....In Myth Venus the scale of the sculpture articulates that reality for me, we unconsciously create an ideal which then domanates and controls us. (Marc Quinn, 2009, included in Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 391, "Myth Venus," has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,202,500, a world auction record for Marc Quinn.
Some paintings just soar when viewed in person, like Lot 352, "Way Beyond Compare," by Cecily Brown (b. 1969), a luscious extravaganza of pigment and virtuoso technique that recalls fleshy beauties cavorting in classical landscapes, accompanied admirers or putti. Paintings like this are a rebuttal to those that proclaim painting - especially figurative painting - is dead. The extraordinary talent illustrated in this review is evidence enough that figurative painting is not dying any time soon. Neither are art historical references:
"In 'Way Beyond Compare,' a masterful example from 2003, Brown tips more than a cursory glance at Poussin, Watteau and 19th Century Romanticism. However, unlike the finely and delicately rendered figures and forests, Brown's handling of her medium is a 'mix of fast and slow, thick and thin, a virtuosity of handling and a deliberate clumsiness, of images held in suspense, between recognition and pure gesture" (S. Cotter, 'Cecily Brown's Paintings, exh. cat, London 2005, p. 44, included in Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 352 has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $626,500.
Lot 402, "Untitled (Portrait of Peddrick Scheffer)," by Julian Schnabel, 2008, oil, bondo and ceramic plates mounted on wood, 69 1/4 by 59 by 8 inches
There are more compelling figurative paintings in this sale by Julian Schnabe (b. 1951)l, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl and David Salle. While still incorporating his broken ceramic plates of the early years, (1980s), Julian Schnabel's "Untitled (Portrait of Peddrick Scheffer)" - painted as recently as 2008 - is a striking and fresh interpretation of the traditional portrait.
Lot 402 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $80,500.
Lot 351, "Eight Women in Black and White," by Ghada Ahmer (b. 1963) is wonderful and especially poignant as Egypt forges a new chapter in its history, with particular significance for thousands of women that are now fighting for their rights as women in western democracies did a century ago. An unusual mixed-media work incorporating acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, this painting was included in an important exhibition "Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking," at The Museum of Modern Art in 2006, and reviewed on this site.
Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "'Eight Women in Black and White' relates directly to Ahmer's experiences during her frequent visits to her homeland. Discussing her journey's to Egypt, which she has found has become increasingly conservative in the years since she left, she comments: "'When I go home, I feel so conscious of my body, every time, conscious of the relationship of the body to everything I wear. Everything is so hidden that if you have a finger out, it becomes the focus of sexuality.' She rebels at this constraint and her pictures are a 'vengeance against this'" (G. Ahmer, quoted in L. Auricchio, "Works in translation: Ghada Ahmer's hybrid pleasures - needlework art pieces," Art Journal, Winter 2001). The catalogue includes another quote: "To me painting is a male tool; it was invented by men and has been used by them for centuries (That is OK, I love painting!!) And embroidery is a woman's tool. It is tedious, time consuming and fragile. So I wanted to put both languages together," (G. Ahmer quoted in T. Millet, ibid, p. 32).
With dignity - and not a hint of self-pity - the unveiled, scantily clad women in Ghada Ahmer's painting convey a longing for freedom that is yet to come.
Lot 351 has an estimate of $90,000 to $150,000. It sold for $146,500.
Lot 343, "The Lost Boys," by Kerry James Marshall, 1993, acrylic and paper collage on canvas mounted on canvas with metal grommets, 100 by 120 inches
Lot 343, "The Lost Boys" is a wonderful painting/collage by Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) and its title - 'lost boys' - is "eluded to and also recalls the 'lost boys' in J. M Barrie's 'Peter Pan.' Marshall has acknowledged a deep interest in children's literature and the parallels between the lost boys of Barrie's novel, who never really grew up, was a powerful idea for Marshall, as he noted 'If I apply that concept of being lost in Never Never Land to a lot of young black men, where in some cases it wasn't that they never had a willful desire never to grow up, as much as they never had an opportunity to grow up because there were far too many young black men cut down very early in their lives'" (K. Marshall in an interview with C. Rowell "Callaloo," vol. 21 No.1, pp. 263-272, in Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 343 has an estimate of $480,000 to $600,000. It sold for $530,500.
Rudolf Stingel (b. 1956) is equally brilliant at abstract and figurative painting, his incredible virtuoso technique often resulting in enigmatic and magical images like Lot 334, "Untitled," (illustrated above), a work so perfectly executed it could be misgtaken for a photograph. Close examination of the painting reveals luscious pigment, its surface sheen enhanced by enamel paint.
Lot 334 has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $626,500.
Reality and fantasy mingle in the haunting painting by Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977), Lot 452, "Femme Piquee Par Un Serpent II," superbly rendered in oil. Although it is a portrait of a young black man, there is nothing traditional about its composition or treatment. The pink and blue flowers of the wallpaper invade the foreground as "real blossoms", adding to the sense of disorientation imposed by the upside-down stare of the subject lying across white sheets in a state of partial undress. It is not clear - from his fixed gaze - if he is alive or dead. At the very least he appears to be compromised by a dangerous substance, all the strength drained out of him. The flowers reinforce the "funereal" atmosphere. Drug overdoze, murder, who knows? It is hard not to think of Kerry James Marshall's comments about "lost boys" when viewing this painting. Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 and is among the youngest contemporary artists whose work is included in this sale.
Lot 452 has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold for $110,500.
George Condo is imaginative and fantastical, his painterly "oevre" harking back to a more romantic time - yet new and exciting. Lot 354, "The Ballerina," is a portrait of a disproportional ballerina - with an impossibly long torso and arms crowned by a tiny head - dressed in a feathery tutu. Set against an ethereal background of clouds, she does not exude the phenomenal strength ballerinas in the real world must possess in order to dance. She seems resigned to inactivity. Shown beside her in the catalogue for this sale is a beautiful reproduction of "Olga, Seated Ballerina," a portrait of by Pablo Picasso of his first wife, (who was a ballerina), in a long blue tutu. Lot 354 has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $1,052,500, a world auction record for the artist.
The wonderful diversity of works on offer in this sale are a reflection of our times and there is an abundance of sculpture, particularly large works that often ends up in public spaces where anyone can enjoy them. From a lightbulb suspended from the ceiling by Ugo Rondinone, a translucent cube by Anish Kapoor, a creepy yet endearing child carrying a knife by Yokitomo Nara and Murakami's provocative and winsome "Kiki," all illustrated here, contemporary artists seem to want to directly engage the public.
There are minimalist sculptures by Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Carl Andre, and there is the supremely tall Lot 418, "Chair for Non-Human Use" by Marina Abramovic (b. 1946) that stands 275 1/4 inches high - a chair that is impossible to sit on or in - not only because it is so high up in the air - but because it has a large quartz in the back-rest that would prevent any sitting back at all. The artist describes this as a "Spirit chair" with "a large crystal stone in the back of the chair which will allow the sunlight to go through and depending on the angle during the day it could work as a prisma projecting rainbow color lights." In the catalogue for this sale it is illustrated installed in a garden, where it truly belongs.
Lot 418 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $362,500.
Lot 394, "Kiki" by Takashi Murakami (b. 1962) greeted visitors with its bizarre, exaggerated grin in Christie's brightly hued Sol Lewitt entrance. The artist describes the origin and inspiration of this winsome sculpture in Christie's catalogue for this sale: "In Japanese we have this adjective, kikikaikai, which we use for strange things or phenomena, things that are frightening, disturbing or make us uneasy. But in this case, I was not referring directly to that expression but to another one which, although based on the same sounds, is written with different Chinese ideograms, kikikaikai. This term, that was used by an art critic in the late 16th Century... embraces several different notions: bravery and power, with all the seductiveness those traits may have and at the same time a keen sensitivity. This was the mixture of qualities that was considered elegant at the time, aesthetically speaking... And since I found the expression kikikaikai had a very attractive sound and because the names suited them, I baptized these two characters Kaikai and Kiki. With these three characters - Oval, Kaikai and Kiki - I wanted, I think, to create my own 'gods of art." T. Murakami, quoted in Takashi Murakami Kaikai Kiki, exh. cat., Paris and London, 2002, p. 87.
Lot 394 has an estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000.
It sold for $1,314,500.
Lot 345, The Girl with the Knife in Her Side," by Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959), is described in Christie's catalogue for this sale as the poster child for the artist's mischievious and often misunderstood youth: "The children in my works are not aggressive. With the knives, the kids can generate power over their lives. I'm not making art to give the viewer hope. I'm articulating or producing a scream for them. Kurt Cobain was not making songs to give hope, he was simply articulating that generation's scream. I'm expressing current conditions. The audience in Japan doesn't see my work as 'ooh it's so cute,' - it's more 'I get it, I understand it.' They say 'I know this child' or 'I was this child'" (Y. Nara, from 1998 interview held in conjunction with a show he participated at the University of Wisconsin; http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyoevents/386/tokyoeventsinc.html, Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 345, which was the illustration of the catalogue's back cover, has an estimate of $250,000 to $300,000. It sold for $314,500.
Lot 340, "Space as Object," is a mysterous sculpture by Anish Kapoor (b. 1954): "What animates 'Space as Object' is its ability to constantly amaze, to represent emptiness, Kapoor's primary concern, and to account in some way for what is missing, what has been displaced" (Christie's catalogue for this sale). Lot 340 has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $482,500.
Left: ot 348, "Untitled," by Anselm Reyle, 2006, PVC foil and acrylic on canvas and Plexiglas, 119 by 79½ by 8¼ inches; center: Lot 335, "The Eighth Hour of the Poem," by Ugo Rondinone, 2005, cast wax and pigment 55 by 32¼ by 32¼ inches; right: Lot 337, "long gone SOLE," by Ugo Rondinone, 2004, Plexiglas, 113 3/4 by 77 1/2 by 1 1/8 inches
The gigantic light bulb, Lot 335, "The Eighth Hour of the Poem," by Ugo Rondinone (b. 1963), emitted no light but commanded attention in the gallery: "The use of the light bulb, perhaps more than any other object in the installation, pays homage not only to the Gods of Minimalism, but to the Grandfather of Conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp, whose usage of ordinarily manufactured objects selected and modified by the artist functioned as an antidote to "retinal art." This commonplace industrial object was also a recurring subject for Jasper Johns and it formed a symbolic bridge between Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades, Abstract Expressionism, and the burgeoning Pop art trend. Johns' extended inquiry reveals the artist's intention to go beyond the simple representation of an object to investigate how we perceive, and categorize objects in a broader cultural context. Rondinone takes this approach to the object one step further, imbibing the wax structure with poetry and meaning so that the closer one approaches the truth, the further away we become. Encountering "The Eighth Hour of the Poem," we are more conscious of our surroundings and simultaneously more distant from the everyday world as we enter a sheltered, sacred space for art. (Christie's catalogue for this sale). Lot 335 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $266,500.
On the left behind the light bulb is Lot 348, the striking, and reflective "Untitled," with an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, by Anselm Reyle (b. 1970). It sold for $134,500. On the right is Lot 337, "long gone SOLE, by Ugo Rondinone, with an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $68,500.
Love, love, love....makes the world go around. However, the deflated "Love" sculpture, Lot 401, illustrated above, by Gimhongsok (b. 1964), is the younger artist's witty "bookend" and parody of Robert Indiana's "Love/Red Blue," described at the top of this story. Both are "Property From An Important Private European Collection:"
"An extraordinary admixture of calligraphic disorder and art-historical parody, Love, an enormous steel structure, travestying Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE of almost half a century earlier, is a visual tour de force of erotic sensuality turned in on itself. Openly flaunting its forebear, Gimhongsok reduces Indiana's monosyllabic units to slurs in steel, the liquid transparency of bright white against shiny black, melting into a single biomorphic form. Love constitutes a principal example of Gimhongsok's virtuosic reach. Known for works across a range of mediums from complex installations, which dynamically combine sculpture, photography, video, wall texts and performance, to unique examples of sculpture and performance art, Gimhongsok's interests range from fictional narratives to an examination of today's complex modes of communication. As satirical as they are didactic, his projects question the role of public sculpture, its efficacy and its function. Gimongsok's treatment here of an icon of 1960s culture is both a hilarious taunt as well as a poignant reminder of the optimism and hope, now lost, of former times." (Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Lot 401 has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $116,500.
It is evident from the illustrations for artworks in this story that boundaries of any kind are constantly criss-crossed by contemporary artists, with impressive results. Prior to their sale, the works of art in all three contemporary art auctions were beautifully displayed, as if in a museum or gallery. Hopeful buyers that were not able to take a work of art home were at least able to view them in Christie's galleries.
Strolling in New York's many neighborhoods, its parks and public plazas, art is visible everywhere. Painting and sculpture abounds in the lobbies of office buildings, hotels, and places of business - like the plaza of Christie's galleries in Rockefeller Center where Marc Quinn's "Myth Venus, and Robert Indiana's "Love Red/Blue" were exhibited before and after the contemporary art sales. The commitment to sharing art with the public is one of New York's most remarkable and beloved assets, enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.
Art's therapeutic effect was keenly felt by the young lady who happened to be striking poses in front of Robert Indiana's "Love Red/Blue" as I was leaving the galleries. The sculpture filled her with joy. I did not wait around to see if she would imitate Kate Moss' pose for "Myth Venus!" She certainly was young, uninhibited and agile enough to try.
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art morning auction at Sotheby's May 11, 2011
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction at Phillips de Pury May 12, 2011
See The City Review Contemporary Art evening auction at Christie's May 11, 2011
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening sale at Sotheby's May 10, 2011
See The City Review article on The Collection of Allan Stone auction at Sotheby's May 9, 2011
See The City Review article on the Carte Blanche auction curated by Philippe Ségalot at Phillips de Pury November 8, 2010
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction Part I at Phillips de Pury Pury following the Ségalot auction
City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening
auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Phillips de Pury