In London this June, Sotheby's
will offer for sale a magnificent and encompassing assembly of Post-war & Contemporary art. Headlining the auction, Francis Bacon’s Study for Self-Portrait is the penultimate self-portrayal in the artist's pivotal corpus of intimately scaled portrait heads. Executed in 1980, this deeply reflective painting delivers a remarkable exemplification of the principle engagement of Francis Bacon’s oeuvre: the Self-Portrait. This work is accompanied by an extraordinary group of paintings by Frank Auerbach. Dedicated to portraying the likeness of Ruth Bromberg, these magnificent eight paintings span the entire seventeen years of Ruth’s stalwart dedication as a sitter.
Striking an intriguing parity to these works is Glenn Brown’s pivotal Atom Age Vampire from 1991. Appropriating yet flattening Auerbach’s signature impasto surface this painting heralds the very beginning of Glenn Brown’s obsession with canonical works from art history. What’s more, constituting the most significant work by Brown ever to come to auction, The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dalí (After John Martin) not only stands at the very apotheosis of the artist’s extraordinary corpus of monumental sci-fi panoramas but also ranks as perhaps the most magnificent work of Glenn Brown’s entire creation.
Complementing these works as highlights of the sale are three outstanding paintings by Gerhard Richter, an iconic cartoon enamel by Roy Lichtenstein, a magnificent Achrome by Manzoni and three major works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charting the rise of Basquiat’s meteoric career, these important paintings chronicle the principle years of the artist’s mercurial creativity between 1982 and 1986. The sale also includes a concise yet exceptional group of works by Louise Bourgeois and a comprehensive group of early works by Damien Hirst. Building on the tremendous excitement and eager anticipation accompanying Hirst’s Tate Modern retrospective, this nuanced collection of rare early pieces chart a succinct survey of the artist’s controversial rise to prominence: works include a Medicine Cabinet from the artist’s very first series, iconic Spot, Spin and Butterfly Paintings and an early Pill-Painting.
Outstandingly rich and inclusive, the Evening Auction traverses a fascinating and truly international course across the past seven decades of art history. Ranging from early iconic works by Louise Bourgeois and Joseph Beuys, IKB works by Yves Klein, two exquisite mobiles by Alexander Calder through to 1960s silkscreens by Warhol, the sale concludes with recent works by Chris Wool, Urs Fischer and Allora & Calzadilla.
Anish Kapoor's stunning Untitled manifests all the pioneering ingenuity in material and spatial possibilities that characterise the very best output of this world renowned sculptor. This beautifully polished reflective material broadcasts a visual and material weightlessness, with nothing existing within the circle other than the remnants of reflection. From the very first experience of this object, Untitled unites those dualities that have become synonymous with Kapoor's seminal canon: presence versus absence; infinity versus illusion; and solidity versus intangibility. The circular metallic abyss of Untitled not only presents a panoramic vision of the space around it, but also facilitates an exceptional creative alchemy. Although at certain distances the visual information contained within Untitled is readily discernable, as variously inverted and distorted echoes of that which is in front of it, these reflection are neither static nor predictable. Its subtly concave shape and highly polished surface forge a unique prism that seems to liquefy all imagery captured within it. As the viewer's perspective changes, these layers of reflection undergo sudden metamorphosis into total fragmentation, providing an unprecedented visual experience of constant abstract and intangible flux.
This ungraspable effect fascinates Kapoor, as he has explained: 'The interesting thing about a polished surface to me is that when it is really perfect enough something happens - it literally ceases to be physical; it levitates; it does something else, especially on concave surfaces' (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, ICA, Anish Kapoor, 2008, p. 53). When standing in front of Untitled, the viewer participates in the work itself: events in our viewing experience become ever changing multiplied events within the realm of the object during our unique encounter. With Untitled, Kapoor has conceived of an infinite 'new space' that includes the viewer, stating: "In a painting the space is beyond the picture plane, but in the mirrored voids it is in front of the object and includes the viewer. It's the contemporary equivalent of the sublime, which is to do with the self – its presence, absence or loss. According to the Kantian idea, the sublime is dangerous because it induces vertigo – you might fall into the abyss and be lost forever. In these sculptures you lose yourself in the infinite" (the artist in an interview with Sarah Kent in: Royal Academy of Arts Magazine, Autumn 2009, No. 104, p. 43).