The Post-War & Contemporary Art auction on 12 February at Bonhams
New Bond Street features Sigmar Polkes Untitled (2002), a compelling and rare work from the artists most important and sought after series. Polkes major retrospective at Tate Modern has positioned the artist as one of Europes most important Post-War figures and as a result his appeal to collectors at all levels has never been higher. The acrylic on paper painting, which comes from a private U.S. collection, is estimated at £100,000-150,000.
During a career spanning half a century, the work of Polke (1941-2010) is defined by an astounding diversity, something conveyed by the Tates current exhibition, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, the latest in a series of major retrospectives dedicated to the artist, which ends on 8 February. But there were certain themes and motifs to which Polke returned time and again. Of these, his raster images, inspired by the mechanical method of reproducing photographs with a series of tiny dots, are perhaps the most renowned.
The raster technique has long been used by newspapers and magazines, and Polkes appropriation of the method reflects his life-long fascination with the printed image. This fascination is emblematic of the Pop sensibilities which he shared with the wunderkinder of 1960s American Pop Art, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. But while the American Popists celebrated film stars and the heroes of cartoon-strips, Polke produced darker, more political work inspired by the disturbed and disturbing times in his native Germany. He was absorbed by the mediation, manipulation and dissemination of images in the popular press, and this drew him to the distinctive raster method.
Polke also rejected the screens and other mechanisms of mass production employed by Lichtenstein and Warhol, and instead made his first raster works by hand, pressing each dot onto the page with a pencil eraser dipped in paint or pigment, and leaving spills and splatters uncorrected. His subjects were ever-changing ranging from flying saucers and sportsmen to bathing beauties and doughnuts and the cursory attention to each theme implied that it was the technique, rather than what was depicted, which mattered more.
This shift of focus from subject to method developed as Polke increasingly distorted and obscured the original images, and the present work finds this process of visual deconstruction reach its logical conclusion: the trademark benday dots form a distinctive black and white pattern which dominates the composition, and yet no clear form is discernible. The rasters, rather than capturing a subject, become the subject.
Martina Batovic, Specialist in the Post-War and Contemporary Art department at Bonhams, said: Polkes was a career filled with innovation and deviation, and he was an artist who constantly evolved. Untitled captures the spirit of that innovation, and pulls together some of his more important themes; as such, it offers a concise yet multi-layered example of the work of this most important of modern masters.