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Phillips announces highlights from the 20th Century & Contemporary Art auctions in London
Miquel Barceló (b. 1957), Muletero. Mixed media on canvas, 130.8 x 161.2 cm (51 1/ 2 x 63 1/ 2 in.). Executed in 1990. Estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- This March, Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art auctions will bring together a selection of celebrated international names. The Evening Sale includes paintings by Josef Albers, Frank Auerbach, Wade Guyton and Christopher Wool; important artworks by Japanese artists Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama; and pieces by renowned Italian Futurists Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Comprising 30 lots, the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale will take place on 8 March and is estimated to realise in excess of £15 million. The 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 10 March features 180 lots and is estimated to total in the region of £6 million.

Peter Sumner, Senior International Specialist of 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Deputy Chairman for Phillips Europe: “We are looking forward to seeing another season at Phillips of well curated, high quality works, setting a strong momentum for the year ahead. A leading highlight is Barceló’s Muletero, a truly exceptional example from the artist’s ‘Bullfight’ series, and we are also thrilled to build upon recent strong results at Phillips in both London, New York and Hong Kong by offering great works by Josef Albers, Yoshitomo Nara, and Rudolf Stingel, as well as many others."

The 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale is jointly led by Miquel Barceló’s Muletero, one of the artist’s highly-celebrated bullfight pictures (estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000). This large-scale work was painted at a pivotal point in Barceló’s career, after he had moved to Africa and imbued his paintings with a newfound sense of clarity and luminosity. The theme of the bullfight is engrained in Spanish culture and artistic tradition and in Muletero, the artist focuses directly on the ballet of the bullfight as a metaphor for painting itself.

Rudolf Stingel is represented in the Evening Sale with three important works, including the mesmeric vision that is Untitled (Plan B) (estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000), which belongs to a series inspired by Stingel’s 2004 Plan B installation at Grand Central Terminal in New York. The work, executed in 2008, sits within Stingel’s wider oeuvre as a celebrated example of his revolutionary artistic practice, testing the boundaries between abstraction and figuration as well as the limits of individual materials, colours and wider concepts. A network of undulating patterns and warm golden hues, the artist combines enamel with the more traditional medium of oil, creating a glossy layer over the work and arguably reimagining the oil painting for the 21st century.

The Evening Sale champions Japanese Contemporary art, featuring Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets (BSGK) (estimate: £300,000-500,000), Takashi Murakami’s An Homage to Monopink, 1960 E (estimate: £600,000-800,000) and Yoshitomo Nara’s Missing in Action (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000). Building upon Phillips’ success in Hong Kong in November 2016, when a world auction record was set for Yoshitomo Nara for a single work on paper, Missing in Action bears the hallmarks of the artist’s pictorial style. Nara is known for integrating the multifaceted and even contradictory qualities inherent in children – their being at once naïve and precocious, complicated yet carefree, sweet though wicked. The painting depicts a figure with a troubled expression, who gazes piercingly and relentlessly at the viewer.

Italian Futurism comes to the fore this March, with museum quality works on paper by Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Balla’s Automobile in corsa – studio, from 1913-1914, stands amongst his first explorations of Futurism (estimate: £300,000-400,000). The work offers a window into the defining thematic concerns of the early Futurists, which centred on the glorification of modernity and the triumph of humanity over nature. Balla conjures the speed of a moving vehicle which appears to race across the page. Focusing on the machine and on the body, both Balla and Severini employ innovative means to address freedom and ingenuity. Severini best expressed his Futurist ideas through the theme of the dancer, and Danseuse et violoniste captures the artist’s exploration of the balance between figuration and abstraction (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000). The drawing, formerly in the collection of the art critic Albert Schneeberger, was included in Gino Severini: The Dance 1906-1916, the exhibition curated by Daniela Fonti at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, in 2001.

Executed in 1974, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Particolare di deposizione is a prime example of the artist’s career-defining series, the Quadri specchianti or mirror paintings (estimate: £500,000-700,000). Pistoletto blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality by printing photographs on reflective panels of highly-polished stainless steel. Confronted with their own reflection, viewers are urged to interact with Pistoletto’s compositions, forming part of an eternal, improvised performance. The interplay between time and space is investigated through Pistoletto’s use of religious iconography, with the present work directly referencing a biblical scene with contemporary figures. Executed at the highest point in the development of the mirror series, Particolare di deposizione demonstrates the artist’s mastery of his instantly recognisable technique which has become one of the most iconic series of 20th century art.

The 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 10 March will be led by George Condo’s Jean-Louis' Girlfriend (estimate: £150,000-200,000) and Sherrie Levine’s Parchment Knot: 3 (estimate: £120,000-180,000). Alongside these significant works the sale will offer a diverse selection of highly sought after contemporary artists including Gabriel Orozco, Adrian Ghenie, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Yoshitomo Nara, among others.

Jean-Louis' Girlfriend is a testament to the distinctive style of psychologically unnerving portraiture developed by George Condo in the latter half of the 20th century. The present work is rendered in an amusing and bold figurative manner, with two animal heads stacked on the woman’s neck where the face would usually be depicted. Using clean lines against a stark background, Condo creates an effect which is both elegant and disturbing, serving to further anthropomorphise the creatures.

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