Leading contemporary artists to headline Phillips' 20th Century & Contemporary Art February Auctions
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Leading contemporary artists to headline Phillips' 20th Century & Contemporary Art February Auctions
Keith Haring 1958-1990, Untitled, 1981. Estimate £3,000,000-4,000,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- Phillips brings together a rich diversity of contemporary artists during its London sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art this February. The Evening Sale will open with a front run of highly sought-after names, including Amoako Boafo, Julie Curtiss, Tschabalala Self, Eddie Martinez, and Katharina Grosse. Young British Artists will also form a key focal point, with works from the esteemed Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More, as well as pieces by major figures including Keith Haring, Ed Ruscha, Peter Doig, and Sean Scully. Comprised of 41 lots, the Evening Sale will take place at 7 pm on 13 February, and will be followed by the Day Sale at 2 pm on 14 February.

“This sale has been purposefully assembled to reflect current international collecting trends, with a front run of young artists positioned alongside seminal works by blue-chip contemporary names,” said Olivia Thornton, Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe. “We are incredibly excited to mark the auction debut for Amaoko Boafo, and to draw attention to a broad selection of works by Jia Aili, Michaël Borremans, Keith Haring, Alex Katz, Ed Ruscha, and Frank Stella.”

Leading the sale is Keith Haring’s monumental Untitled, painted in 1981 at the dawn of his oeuvre. Untitled was included in the artist’s seminal Tony Shafrazi show in 1982, where it was acquired by the present owner, and has remained in the same collection ever since. It was further highlighted in Haring’s watershed retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1997, and his first-ever retrospective to focus on the political aspect of his work: Keith Haring: The Political Line at the Musée d'Art moderne, Paris, in 2013. Untitled is a paradigmatic example of Haring’s practice, reminiscent of the subway setting from which his art originated, and exemplifying the political and gestural line that he adopts in his work.

Ed Ruscha’s God Knows Where, 2014, is typical of the artist’s investigation of the symbiotic relationship between images and words. Exemplifying his use of mountainous peaks as visual backdrops, the work references the Hollywood appropriation of snowscapes, embodied most prominently by Paramount Pictures’ infamous logo. Ruscha balances the majesty of the mountains with its commercial appropriation, further modified by the overlaid text. Ruscha said, “It’s not a celebration of nature. I’m not trying to show beauty. It’s more like I’m painting ideas of ideas of mountains. The concept came to me as a logical extension of the landscapes that I’ve been painting for a while – horizontal landscapes, flatlands, the landscape I grew up in. Mountains like this were only ever a dream to me.”

Phillips presents The Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More, a multitude of YBA treasures. Of the 30 works in the collection, the Evening Sale includes seminal artworks by Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, Gary Hume, and Michael Craig-Martin – most acquired directly from the artists or galleries the same year of their creation. Robert Tibbles’ collecting journey began at the genesis of a movement that transformed contemporary British art, and ushered a novel artistic language built on rebellion and audacity. A principle author of this movement was Damien Hirst, whose degree show in 1989 marked the beginnings of his ‘Medicine’ series. Named after the 12 tracks from the Sex Pistols’ UK debut album, the show featured the first four from a series of 13 cabinets, created using empty medication packages. Robert Tibbles acquired Bodies, which featured in the show, from Karsten Schubert for the sum of £600, marking him as one of the very first collectors of Hirst’s work.

Hailing from the private collection A Vision in Red is a stunning example of El Anatsui’s wall-mounted works, Affirmation, 2014. Comprised of a myriad of aluminium bottle caps, the sculpture belongs to an ongoing series of works that Anatsui commenced in 1999, conceptualised after finding a bag full of metal seals from African drinks bottles. Affirmation captures Anatsui’s unique sculptural practice that engages with complex themese of history, memory and time, whilst skilfully seizing the way in which these forces shape human society. One of the most prominent African artists working today, Anatsui was selected to represent the Ghanaian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2019.

Debuting at auction for the first time is the work of Amoako Boafo, who was recently the first artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum, Miami. The Evening Sale opens with The Lemon Bathing Suit, 2019, emblematic of his mode of figuration which he has described as a “celebration of blackness”. Another artist of note is Jia Aili, who Phillips will present for the first time at auction in the UK with The Young, 2012. The painting places realism in dialogue with abstraction; it is at once traditional in its clean figurative strokes, and contemporary in its futuristic feel. Jia departs from a generation of Chinese artists who, for multiple decades, focused on overtly political themes, and instead devises a broader narrative, specifically veered towards the notion of nothingness – a sense of loss in time and space that better corresponds to the existential concerns of modern man.

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale
Following the world auction record Phillips set for Alex Katz in October last year, when Blue Umbrella I sold for over £3 million, the Day Sale presents Kate, a 2006 painting of American actress Kate Valk, dressed in character for her leading role in The Emperor Jones, Eugene O’Neill’s classic 1920s tale reinvented by The Wooster Group in 2006. Further leading highlights of the sale include Tomoo Gokita’s 2017 painting, Mature #5, and Allen Jones’ Red Refrigerator, executed in 2002.

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