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Exclusive selling exhibition Hunters & Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage opens at Sotheby's
El Anatsui, Afor. Aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire, 2010. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York announce that from 18 November to 16 December, 2011 it is hosting its third selling exhibition in S|2, the newly constructed gallery space within Sotheby’s York Avenue headquarters dedicated to private sales. This show focuses on the accumulative tendency in art that has been broadly labeled ‘assemblage’. It features American Indian, African & Oceanic art, Modern and Contemporary art, Photography and Design. The works in the exhibition range in price from $25,000 to over $10 million*

Lisa Dennison, Chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America and one of the organizers of the exhibition, commented: “Until about 10,000 years ago, all human beings were hunters and gatherers. While the invention of agriculture changed this way of life, the impulse to scavenge is embedded in our genes, and has indeed found translation in the world of art. Artists are a particular type of hunter-gatherer. They create works that are assembled from assorted traditional and non-traditional materials, both natural and man-made, in arrangements in which the artistic whole transforms and transcends the sum of its parts.”

Powerful and impactful pieces, each with a very different meaning, have been created through ‘assemblage’, for example: from the 17th century, Native Americans incorporated commodities such as metal and glass beadwork into ceremonial clothing and weaponry; while from the 19th century in Africa, Congo carvers drove nails, blades and spikes into their figures, endowing them with spiritual powers. In the early 20th century, the Cubist artists inserted fragments of the real world onto the surface of the canvases, heralding the advent of collage, and Pop artists such as Robert Rauschenberg incorporated found and manufactured objects into their art. The 21st century has seen a proliferation of artistic practices that rely upon assemblage, such as El Anatsui who stitches together mesmerizing tapestries out of recycled liquor bottle caps, and Anselm Kiefer who uses clay and other natural materials in his paintings. In all cases, the primordial urge to create art from disparate and recuperated materials, challenging the sanctity of the traditional art object, is at the core of the works.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Adam Gopnik, who writes about assemblage as a nomadic feature of the human appetite for experience. As he explains, “There are two essential kinds of assemblage: one involves the plain made sacred or potent; the other, the peripheral made poetic, with many vibrations between them.”

Juxtaposing western and non-western art histories, the exhibition itself becomes an assemblage of different time periods, cultures and artistic forms in striking visual encounters. As one moves between the centuries, it is the dialogue between these objects that creates the universe of hunters & gatherers.

*Please note that not all the works in the exhibition will be for sal

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