For its forthcoming June auctions of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christies
will present some of the most iconic Young British Artist (YBA) works from The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania. Bringing together some of the YBA movements most celebrated proponents, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili and Jenny Saville, these works will be amongst the highlights of Christies Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 30 June, 2015 and will be on view from 26 June, 2015 at Christies, London.
Leading the selection is Chris Ofilis The Holy Virgin Mary (1996), originally acquired by Charles Saatchi directly from the artist and first exhibited at the generation-defining exhibition Sensation in London and New York. A focal point for the widespread attention the exhibition received throughout the international media landscape, The Holy Virgin Mary dates from a moment that saw Ofili propelled to international fame and at the centre of a lawsuit between the Brooklyn Museum and New Yorks Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, who argued that the painting desecrated the Catholic Church. Considered one of the most significant works in an oeuvre that often plays with stereotypes of blackness, exoticism and sexuality, The Holy Virgin Mary puts centre stage a black Madonna shrouded in fluttering robes of cerulean blue, parted to reveal a single breast of dried and varnished elephant dung. Set against a golden background awash with iridescent pointillist dots and tendrils of glittering resin the Madonna is surrounded by collaged close-ups of female genitalia cut into shapes reminiscent of the cherubim and seraphim of Old Master paintings. Since the paintings dramatic debut it has been a highlight in Ofilis retrospective exhibitions at Tate Britain (2010) and the New Museum, New York (2014).
Also central to the MONA group is Jake and Dinos Chapmans Great Deeds Against the Dead (1994), another headline-hitting work from Sensation, acquired from Charles Saatchi in 2005. Exhibited in every major retrospective on the artists, and standing nearly three metres in height, Great Deeds Against the Dead is a life-size sculptural reworking of Goyas Grande hazaña! Con muertos! (A heroic feat! With dead men!), the most recognised and gruesome sheet from Goyas The Disasters of War series (1810-20). Also featured is Jenny Savilles Matrix (1999), a monumental portrait of transgender photographer Del LaGrace Volcano. An uninhibited meditation on the human body and the pressures of conformity, Savilles painting confronts the questions of human vulnerability, body image and gender that have continued to define her practice. Completing the selection is Damien Hirsts Beautiful mis-shapen purity clashing excitedly outwards painting (1995), one the first examples of the artists radical spin paintings. Executed the same year that Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize, it has been included in his major solo shows The Agony and the Ecstasy (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, 2004), and Relics (ALRIWAQ, Qatar Museums Authority, Doha, 2013).
Founder of MONA, David Walsh is known for his uncompromising philosophy and vision, which are showcased by the museum. Since its founding in 2011, MONA has been acclaimed for its unconventional approach to both display and interpretative content. Australias largest privately owned museum, MONA has built an international profile using Walshs diverse collection, from ancient to contemporary works, and its high-profile exhibition programming featuring, most recently, Matthew Barneys River of Fundament (Nov 2014 April 2015). Walsh is now looking to fund an expansion of his museum with the sale works from his collection that proved controversial when they were made but are now synonymous with the height of the YBA era.
David Walsh said of the upcoming auction: Selling isnt easy. I love the things I own. But the proceeds of this auction will help fund an expansion of Mona for a wing to house a number of James Turrell works. They will be light and airy and engaging and, hopefully, provocative. I made my money gambling. And here, at this auction, Im gambling again. My gamble isnt that you will pay enough for these works to justify my selling. My wager is that the future, for me and my museum, is more rewarding than the past.
Francis Outred said: The arrival of the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania represented a shot in the arm for culture not just in the region but also globally. The largest privately funded museum in Australia, David Walshs vision of juxtaposing ancient and modern objects and works of art captured a zeitgeist which continues to inspire its thousands of visitors annually. Similarly Chris Ofilis The Holy Virgin Mary and the Chapman Brothers Great Deeds against the Dead were central to the era-defining Sensation exhibition of Charles Saatchis collection of Young British Art in 1997. Bringing together a profound visual and material creativity with a powerful sensuality and unflinching political acuity, they continue to thrill and challenge today. Last year we set the bar high with both Tracey Emins My Bed and Jenny Savilles Plan and were looking forward to similar energy in the sale room on 30 June.
Having never previously been offered at auction before, the sale brings together four works that exemplify the ground-breaking aesthetic of the Young British Artists of the 1990s. Viewing will take place at Christies, 8 King Street, London from 26 June, 2015.