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Contemporary Art Evening

by Sotheby's


67 lots with images

June 21, 2006

34-35 New Bond Street

London, W1A 2AA United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)207 293 5000

Fax: +44 (0)207 293 5989

Email: info@sothebys.com

JOHN BALDESSARI

Lot 2: JOHN BALDESSARI

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Description: B. 1931CHOOSING (A GAME FOR TWO PLAYERS): CARROTSfourteen R-type prints mounted on paperboardExecuted in 1971, this work is unique and accompanied by a certificate signed by the artist.PROVENANCEGian Enzo Sperone, New YorkGalleria Massimo Minini, BresciaAcquired directly from the above by the present owner in the early 1980sEXHIBITEDMilan, Galleria Toselli, John Baldessari: Choosing, Aligning, Floating, 1973NOTE"This work is part of a series of works about choosing. In this version a group of carrots was available from which to choose. A participant was asked to choose any three carrots from the group for whatever reason he/she might have at the moment. The three chosen carrots were then placed upon a surface to be photographed. I chose one of the three carrots for whatever reason I might have had at the moment. A photograph was taken of the selection process. The chosen carrot was carried over; the two other carrots not chosen were discarded; two new carrots were added. The next choice was made, and so on. Each of the participants develops strategies unknown to the other player as the selection process continues until all the other carrots are used." (John Baldessari, December 1971) John Baldessari is one of the original group of key conceptual artists who rose to prominence in the 1960s. His work plays with contemporary art theory, ironicising it, and treating it with a deadpan absurdist humour. Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots builds on the artist's series of Commissioned Paintings, with their focus on the process of selection and "pointing at things". In the Choosing series, he takes the process of artistic selection begun by Duchamp with his "readymades" to its logical extreme. Taking a reductivist attitude, inspired by the minimalism of the period, Baldessari stripped his work to what he saw as the essential issue of art -- that of choice. He also marries this idea with his interest in games and the rules they involve. Through setting a somewhat random goal, Baldessari demonstrates the arbitrariness of choice and also perhaps aesthetic judgement. That the carrots are constantly being replaced brings in existential questions -- like the philosopher's axe, is this the same work of art?Baldessari humanizes the whole process of selection by pointing at the object with a finger. Slightly comical when looked at in each individual photograph, the fingers take on their own aesthetic form -- which some have compared to William Hogarth's "line of beauty" - when the pictures are displayed together. Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots combines photographic realism with the fundamental questions that an art based on choosing must posit: how do you choose: who chooses: and on what basis do you choose? Baldessari has here captured the essence of making art.

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m - MATTHIAS WEISCHER

Lot 3: m - MATTHIAS WEISCHER

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Description: B. 1973BRAUNES ZIMMERsigned and dated 2002 on the reverseoil on canvasPROVENANCEAcquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2002EXHIBITEDMannheim, Kunsthalle, Direkte Malerei, 2004-05NOTEBraunes Zimmer is a prime example of Matthias Weischer's work. A graduate of the now famous Leipzig Art Academy and widely recognized as being the leading young artist of his generation, like Neo Rauch before him, in 2005 he was awarded the Leipziger Volkzeitung Art Prize.Beautifully composed, layers of paint built upon layers of paint create an almost archeological narrative on the canvas, while the objects rendered on its surface maintain an extraordinary delicacy and precision. Influenced by the German and Netherlandish painters of the Renaissance, Weischer explores space through the construction and de-construction of imagined interiors. In the present work, for instance, he creates a sense of spatial ambiguity that recalls Jan van Eyck's masterpiece, The Arnolfini Marriage. Braunes Zimmer is a hauntingly anticipatory image. The people who inhabit the room are absent but one senses imminent repopulation or, like a ghost-room, that there has been some sudden departure. Some drama has occurred or is about to occur. The objects afford no clue to the inhabitants - they cannot be placed on a fashion time-line or indeed in a socio-economic group - and the room is windowless giving us no hint of in which city, country or even continent it might be. The room's secret is not revealed.The viewer immerses himself in the painting, drawn in by its intimate scale, by the domesticity of the scene, and by the colliding perspectives. The mirror in the middle of the painting reflecting yet more densely painted walls adds to the intensity, making the painting almost claustrophobic. Meanwhile, Weischer by layering the paint has created a resident narrative within the painting itself, glimpsed where the paint is scratched away. The thickness of the paint turns the walls into a physical object, a wall of pigment. The patterned furniture, lampshade, rug and the posters affixed to the wall recall representational clichés and remind the viewer, without descending into irony, of the formulaic nature of painted compositions. The whole room ends up appearing to be constructed not of walls and furniture but rather of colour planes; it becomes a sculpture made of paint.

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c,m - PETER DOIG

Lot 4: c,m - PETER DOIG

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Description: B. 1959IRON HILLsigned, titled and dated 91 on the reverseoil on canvasPROVENANCEVictoria Miro Gallery, LondonSimmons & Simmons, LondonAcquired directly from the above by the present ownerEXHIBITEDLondon, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Whitechapel Artist Award, 1991Salzburg, Osterfestspiele; Vienna, Grafisches Kabinett; Paris, Galerie Samia Saouma, Prix Eliette von Karajan, 1994, no. 20Glarus, Kunsthaus, Peter Doig: Version, 1999LITERATURESimmons & Simmons, Made in London. A Collection of works by London based artists made in the 1990s, London 1996, p. 21, no. 4, illustrated in colourNOTE"I never try to create real spaces -- only painted spaces. That's all I am interested in. That may be why there is never really any specific time or place in my paintings." (Peter Doig cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum, Peter Doig, Charley's Space, 2003, p. 33)The most significant painting by the artist to come to auction in recent years, Iron Hill is an early example of the inventive approach to painting which has secured Peter Doig a position of pre-eminent importance within the current critical cannon. One of the few British artists to be included in the reopening hang at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2005 and with work included in this year's Whitney Biennial and the Tate Triennial, Doig is today universally recognised as a pacemaker of his generation, an unerring champion of the poignancy and relevance of oil painting in our increasingly media-saturated visual environment. An early paradigm of Doig's precocious talent, Iron Hill is seminal in the strictest sense of the word, a blueprint that laid the foundations for Doig's best work to date. Shortly after graduating from the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1990, Doig was awarded the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Prize, which comprised a travel bursary and culminated in a solo exhibition at London's celebrated Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1991. The prospect of such a major institutional exhibition at such a formative stage in his career spurred an epiphanic period in that year, in which Doig produced a small number of large canvases which he now sees as the thematic matrix for his subsequent oeuvre. The recurrent themes that resurface in Doig's work up to the present day all find their source in the Whitechapel show, which included Architect's Home in the Ravine, Concrete Cabin (the first 'cabin' painting based on Le Corbusier's architecture), and Iron Hill, which is the most ambitious and resolved of a cluster of paintings, beginning with Hill Houses (now in the British Council Collection), based on the Quebecois landscape around Doig's parental home.While this vast, all-encompassing depiction of the expansive natural landscape doubtless engages with the grand tradition of landscape painting, it is Doig's departure from the representational mode that is his lasting achievement. The romanticised wildernesses of Caspar David Friedrich, the wrought painterly surfaces of Monet's informal plein air oil sketches and the vehement use of colour employed by the Canadian Group of Seven all find their correlatives here; however, Doig is primarily an imagistic painter and this rendering of the Canadian landscape, far from representational, is based more on memory and associative images than topographical veracity. Like many artists, Doig is a collector of images and he works from a visual archive of pictures and photographs culled from newspapers, postcards, film and album covers. Unlike his plein air forefathers a century before him, distance and detachment from his subject are essential prerequisites of his artistic practice. In his innovative, studio-based approach to image making, an initially vague but guiding thought gradually links the painterly process with an image from his expansive visual repertoire. In the case of Iron Hill, Doig's source image was a photograph of houses in Maine taken from the National Geographic. Estranged from its original context, this photograph of unfamiliar American houses provided the catalyst for a concatenation of heady childhood reminiscences, the two meshing together in a combination which served as a guideline in the construction of his entirely fictitious landscape. As the artist explains: "I think the way that the paintings come out is more a way of trying to depict an image that is not about reality, but one that is somehow in between the actuality of a scene and something that is in your head." (ibid., p. 18) It is the non-specific nature of the landscape in Iron Hill which invites the beholder to share in the mental terrain of the picture plain. Our seemingly unnatural, elevated perspective distances us from the countryside surrounding this hamlet, which attains a superlative scale and epic grandeur redolent of the empty and sublime landscapes of Freidrich. Dwarfed by nature, mankind's increment on the landscape only reinforces nature's dominance. Twilight -- the contemplative hour -- hangs in the sparkling sky, the luminescent glow of the hilltop conurbation the only sign of life aside from the abstracted forms of the headlamps descending the hillside.One of the defining characteristics of Doig's painterly virtuosity is his ability to marry process and image, deftly creating a tension between the content of a painting and its abstract possibilities. Deriving figuration from abstraction (and vice versa), Doig creates a varied painterly surface whose all-over finish constantly shifts and changes. Translucent layers of paint build up, traces of colour seem to disperse and sink, seeping and bleeding into one another and running down the canvas in serendipitous arabesques. In places earthy, elsewhere the surface positively glistens, a rich tapestry of textural diversity. Exquisite passages of adroit representation, such as the depiction of the houses in the immediate foreground, coexist alongside mires of looser abstraction where the numerous trickles and runs of paint, alongside the wilful flaws in the finish, counter the illusion of naturalistic representation. Like Monet's late depictions of water lilies in Giverny, the intricately veiled layers of paint and rich impasto create a remarkable sense of illusionistic depth while simultaneously insisting on the real space, the flat planar surface of the canvas and the paint itself. While in certain works, such as Architect's Home in the Ravine, this flatness is achieved by the meshing together of foreground and background in a Pollockian matrix of colour, in Iron Hill, the overt frontality of the picture plane derives from the painting's pseudo-naïve composition which collapses true perspective thereby dispelling any true sense of illusionistic space. In this levelling of the composition, the road running up the right flank of the composition becomes an abstract form, an outright rejection of repoussoir effect and perspectival recession which forces the viewer to consider the work in purely abstract terms.

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l,m - NEO RAUCH

Lot 5: l,m - NEO RAUCH

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Description: B. 1960LOSUNG (PASSWORD)signed, titled and dated 1998oil on canvasPROVENANCEGalerie Eigen+Art, BerlinAcquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1998EXHIBITEDBerlin, Deutsches Historisches Museum; Bonn, Kunstmuseum; Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart, Die Macht des Alters - Strategien der Meisterschaft. 40 Künstler beziehen Position, 1998-99Backnang, Galerie der Stadt, Neo Rauch, 1998-99, p. 15, illustrated in colourLeipzig, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst; Munich, Haus der Kunst; Zurich, Kunsthalle, Neo Rauch, Randgebiet, 2000-01, p. 64, illustrated in colourCologne, Museum Ludwig (on permanent display 2001-2006)NOTE"Occasionally a word can trigger a painting. It can happen that a word develops an incredible atmospheric undertow in the direction of a painting that produces itself where my only duty is to assist. Such moments are precious and they bring me even closer to my mother tongue, for it is only here that such experiences can occur." (Neo Rauch in Alison M Gingeras, 'Neo Rauch', Flash Art, November-December 2002, No.277)When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, Neo Rauch was just finishing his studies at the Art Academy in Leipzig. The events of that year had a profound effect not just on his livelihood and of those around him but also in the way that he saw the world. For a generation brought up in the East under the shadow of Communism, their rapid and relentless exposure to the Capitalism of the West gave them a unique insight into the two most powerful types of political economy in the ever growing Global village. As with many of the most important artistic movements over the centuries, yet again a profound uplifting of civilisation and a clash of historical ideals laid the seeds for an artistic movement which has now become the most innovative and groundbreaking in the new century, the so-called Leipziger Schule or Leipzig School.As the founding father and leading light of this school, Neo Rauch has inspired a group of young painters to draw from their own individual experience and amalgamate the wide variety of histories, ideologies and environments that they have been exposed to. Formally trained in the traditional techniques of perspective, draughtsmanship and painting, these artists have an incredible facility with the medium and as a result each is able to articulate a very individual response to their own experience. Tim Eitel, Matthias Weischer and David Schnell have all been inspired by Rauch and share with him a deep commitment to figurative painting combined with a distinctively Leipziger air of unease and disillusionment -- the product of seeing the failure of two bright new dawns -- those of post-War Communism and post-Cold War capitalism.All of this is packed into Rauch's grands tableaux which merge a whole array of signs and symbols from various histories of art and society to create complex narratives echoing the world in which we live. Merging the objects and interiors of communism and consumerism, comic influences with communist industrial paraphernalia and diagrams and a history of German art from Cranach to Beckmann and Baselitz, Rauch effortlessly plunders a dictionary of visual stimuli to try to find answers to the state of the world.The towering presence of Losung represents one of his finest paintings to date. Executed in his breakthrough year of 1998, the painting has spent most its life in museums, most recently the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where it has sat very comfortably amongst the international artists who have been such a big influence. One is first struck by the dramatic felling of a tree which crashes across the foreground of the composition and immediately belittles the viewer. In Rauch's lexicon one would imagine that this is a symbol for the failure of nature that was so romantically portrayed by his 19th Century predecessor, Caspar David Friedrich. Indeed, this is confirmed by the roots of the tree which are pictured at the bottom of the composition metamorphosing into electrical cables which in turn merge into rocket-like trees lifting out of the ground towards the bright blue sky, bearing the word "Losung" depicted like a Hollywood closing credit. Like the painting itself, the German word "Losung" has ambiguities of meaning which Rauch enjoys and plays with. Most directly it means 'password', which bears suggestions of the vague hope of a passage to a brave new world beyond this painting.If we duck beneath the felled trunk and hurdle over the pipe filled with live wires, we vanish down the rabbit-hole and go through the looking-glass into the world of Rauch's imagination into the background of the painting. There we find two men depicted as if in a Socialist Realist instruction manual engaged in undefined work, pointing to empty space. Meanwhile, beneath a watch-tower and in front of a long, low workshed and neatly-ordered wood pile, three militaristic figures push and drag a stagnant leaping stag which appears to be constructed of solid paint. A symbol of energy and progress has been stopped dead in its tracks.Above them Rauch introduces that classic symbol of German Romanticism, the forest. It is perhaps the forest of Rauch's childhood since he grew up in Aschersleben, a small town in the foothills of the Harz Mountains near the vast forest of what is now the Harz National Park. Depicted as a dense mass of trees, this incredible image mirrors the appearance of a Max Ernst 'Frottage'. However, where Ernst achieved this look by rubbing and scraping objects onto the canvas to take a direct 'print' of their reality, Rauch here painstakingly recreates every detail. Furthermore, where for Ernst the forest represented the sublime embodiment of both enchantment and terror, for Rauch it represents the old world. This is Rauch's epitaph to the years gone by when images of Nature, its cycles of growth and decay and its ceaseless renewal, were the keys to feeling in art. If this sense has been dimmed, it is partly because for most people in the West, Nature has now been replaced by the culture of congestion: of cities and mass media. The forest of trees has become a forest of media and cables.Thus, in this painting, through a complex stylistic amalgam, Neo Rauch presents us with two very distinct worlds, those of his past and present. If the past is painted in an extremely eloquent and longing way, lovingly detailed in its dream-like depiction, the present is painted with dramatic directness. In harsh perspective, there is more detail in the background than there is to the foreground, a reversal of the imagistic norm. Up above lies the ambiguous key to the future: LOSUNG. It is a tribute to Rauch's talent as a painter and his compositional genius that such diverse elements work well together. Only Rauch could use eighteenth-century and futuristic references and not descend into the absurd. What is remarkable about this painting and Rauch's body of work is his skill at juxtaposing images in such a compositionally coherent manner. As he says "With a shudder I open the various contamination chambers and remove a variety of material from them to temporarily store it in the territories of my paintings." (Conversation between Neo Rauch and Juan Manuel Bonet, cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Malaga, CAC, Neo Rauch, 2005, p. 76)

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m - GERHARD RICHTER

Lot 6: m - GERHARD RICHTER

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Description: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTIONB. 1932PORTRAIT LIS KERTELGEsigned, titled and dated IV. 66 on the reverseoil on canvasPROVENANCEGalerie René Block, BerlinAcquired directly from the above by the present owner in the early 1960s LITERATURE AND REFERENCESExhibition Catalogue, Venice, German Pavilion, XXXVI Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte, Gerhard Richter, 1972, no. 107, illustratedNOTEGerhard Richter's progressive advance towards compositional order and flawless execution during the 1960s achieves an almost Zen-like clarity in this portrait of the actress, Lis Kertelge. Executed during a period of unprecedented painterly confidence that culminated in the introduction of colour into his work later that year, the present work is amongst the most aesthetically sublime and technically accomplished photopaintings that Richter painted during the 1960s. At a time when most of his contemporaries were putting down their brushes in favour of more advanced, less formal approaches to image making, Richter's commitment to the expressive power and freedom of easel painting was as radical as the photographic sources on which he based his paintings. Through the licentious examples of Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and Warhol who had begun using mass media photography as a source for their work, he realised that it was no longer a pre-requisite of painting to have direct contact with the world; that the stimulus for art could be provided through magazines or any other visual intermediary. By using a readymade source, Richter also consciously engaged with the Duchampian debate regarding the subversion of traditional artistic notions like creativity, originality and 'High' art. What is more, the precision of the photographic source challenged his ability as a painter and fulfilled his requirements for a visual source free from art historical associations and subjective desires. Based on an image he had found in a local newspaper, this painting was the first and largest of the two back-to-back portraits that Richter painted of Lis Kertelge. A little known figure outside of her German homeland, she, like the household icons of the everyday appearing in Richter's work at this time, represented the public face of a new wave of bourgeois optimism sweeping through Europe in the post war period. The fact that she was an actress as well as an undeniable beauty provided him with an opportunity to make a direct and conscious comparison between his photobased portraits and Warhol's celebrities and films stars like Liz and Marilyn. Richter had admired American Pop art from a distance since the early 1960s, and had made no secret of how Warhol's use of photographs had encouraged him to pursue a similar avenue in his own work. However, instead of restricting the quality of the painting and its surface to the limitations of the source image as Warhol had, he here arouses an immediate curiosity and emotional response in the viewer through the painterly fluidity of his brushwork and treatment of the motif. Constructing and distorting the image by brushing across the wet surface of the canvas in a symbolic act of self effacement, Richter engages his audience with the natural cycle of creation and destruction. As the beauty of the sitter emerges and recedes in an ethereal mist of brushwork, he highlights the pivotal role given to chance in his painting process and his wider ambivalence to it. Although emphatically flat in its surface, the movement and tension within the paint film endows the actress' form with a fullness and vitality, particularly where the edges of the different colour fields overlap and flow into one another. The pigment there seems to float like grains of sand held in suspension and this delicacy of treatment lends itself effortlessly to the beauty of the motif. As if emerging from the depths of a misty film set, unlike the second portrait of her which focused only upon her face, Richter captures the actress here in full cinematic glamour. Signalling the beginnings of his investigation into the boundaries separating abstract and figurative representation, the infinite subtlety of tone and mark employed here emphasize the illusion inherent to pictorial representation. In these late grisaille photopaintings of the 1960s, Richter did not seek to imitate the material of the photograph on which they were based, or even the already filtered reality contained within it; rather he wanted to construct another authentic reality - one which only existed in his works. For this reason, he professed his indifference to the subject of the source as well as its quality, stressing that he looked to photographs only as a compositional and tonal guide that would liberate his hand from the traditional choices governing style and form. The photo, explained Richter, "had no style, no composition, no criterion; I was freeing myself from personal experiences; for the first time I had nothing, it was pure image. That is why I wanted to have it, to show it; I didn't want to use it as a medium for a painting; I wanted to use the painting as a medium for photography." (Gerhard Richter cited in Rolf Schön, 'Interview', Gerhard Richter; 36 Biennale in Venedig-Deutscher Pavillon, 1972, p. 24) Unlike the American Pop artists for whom the motif was the primary subject of the painting, with Richter, the motif was foremost a means of triggering a discussion about the issues of painting and perception. The paintings were not so much about their content but rather about its relationship to lived reality. Shrouded beneath an abstract sfumato blanket of painterly intervention, the unfocused blurred zones annul the content of the image without formulating one to replace it. Occurring as if seen in the blink of an eye or caught in a passing reflection, Lis Kertelge reveals Richter's increasing interest in blurring the boundaries between abstraction and figuration. Although immediately legible from a distance, up close the image seems to dissolve into an abstract ether of feathered striations. By removing the contours and tonal boundaries of the image, Richter manipulates the dynamics of our relationship to it and reasserts his painterly control. In doing so he challenges the conventional opposition between these modes of representation to tackle our perception of art and how images function.

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