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John McEnroe's Mark Bradford masterwork to be sold at Phillips
Mark Bradford (b. 1961), Helter Skelter I, 2007. Estimate: £6 - 8 million. Image courtesy Phillips.

LONDON.- This season, Phillips will present Mark Bradford’s Helter Skelter I from the Collection of John McEnroe, 7-time Grand Slam Champion and avid collector of contemporary art. The large-scale work was executed in 2007 and stands over 10 meters wide, evocative of the urban landscape of Los Angeles. Phillips currently hold the top two auction prices for Bradford’s work, having sold Constitution IV, 2013 in October 2015 and Rat Catcher of Hamelin III, 2011 in October 2016. Expected to realise in excess of £6 million, Helter Skelter I has never been publicly offered and is poised to set a new auction record for the artist when it is presented in the Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in London on 8 March, 2018.

Jean-Paul Engelen, Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, said: “Helter Skelter I was first shown at the inaugural exhibition Collage: The Unmonumental Picture at the New Museum in New York in 2008. Since then, Mark Bradford’s reputation has grown exponentially as one of the leading artists of his generation. His work has been exhibited across the United States, Europe and Asia, he represented the United States in the 2017 Venice Biennale, and currently his work can be seen at the Mark Bradford: Pickett’s Charge exhibition at the Hirshhorn in Washington. We are not only honoured to be able to offer this work but also that the legendary John McEnroe has entrusted us with the sale of this masterwork.”

John McEnroe, said: “I have this history of buying monumental, expressive works, and it’s always driven by this idea that they would have a future life after my collection, in a way that’s hopefully more public. So when I was told I was going to see the mother of all Bradford’s, and I saw Helter Skelter, I remember just thinking to myself, ‘oh my God, here we go again’. What I love about this work is that every time you go up to it, you see something you hadn’t seen before and experience something a little different. I hope and believe its next owner will be able to appreciate it for a very long time.”

Bradford created Helter Skelter I in 2007, in tandem with its companion piece Helter Skelter II specifically for the New Museum’s thematic group exhibition Collage: The Unmonumental Picture that opened in January 2008 in New York. Created concurrently to his series of silver-clad abstractions that debuted at his solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2007, it represents the profound shift in the artist's practice that was characterised by a departure from his earlier grid-like work, towards more decentralised, all-over, and increasingly monumental compositions that have become the hallmarks of his mature visual idiom.

In Helter Skelter I, An intricate network of lines explodes across the full expanse of the canvas, breaking the silver surface like cracks in the earth. Fragments of elusive text and imagery begin to reveal themselves - from a large black skull, an American flag, and snippets of words. Exemplary of Bradford’s refined technique of décollage, a process defined by cutting, tearing away or removing pieces of an original image, the work is constructed from the detritus the artist found on the streets of Los Angeles, such as posters, advertisements, and flyers. Linking his work both conceptually and physically to Los Angeles, Bradford subtly reflects on the history, social structures and lived experiences of his urban environment. Helter Skelter I's title refers to a moment of racial tension in American history, evoking the harrowing events that took place in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.

Helter Skelter I presents a work that not only explores the vital tension between abstraction and representation in contemporary art, but invites the viewer to confront some of the most pressing issues in today’s socio-political landscape.

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