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Christie's sale celebrates the visual synergy between centuries
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Liberation Two-Piece (2013, estimate: £200,000-300,000). © Christie's Images Ltd 2020.

LONDON.- As part of Christie’s Classic Week, Remastered: Contemporary Art & Old Masters, an online-only auction running from 21-30 July 2020, will celebrate the visual synergy between centuries, recontextualising contemporary and old master artworks. Continuing on from 2014 Christie’s Mayfair Exhibition The Bad Shepherd and the 2018 exhibition Sacred Noise, this auction will highlight the continual thematic threads that have occupied artists throughout the ages. Artists are in constant conversation through a visual and cerebral language that spans the centuries, and this auction seeks to bring those dialogues to light through four strands of exploration.

The Human Condition
Painting, from its earliest inception to the present day, has been a way of telling stories: part of the narrative fabric of myth, religion and history that helps us make sense of the world. Pieter Brueghel II’s The Adoration of the Magi (estimate: £200,000-300,000) refreshes a well-worn Biblical scene by transposing it into the hubbub of a snowy Netherlandish town. Created some four centuries later, George Condo’s Dispersed Figures (1998, estimate: £250,000-350,000) fractures a crowd of bodies to nebulous abstraction. While engaging with art history, Condo’s ‘psychological Cubism’ is also about the tales we tell ourselves: how we build our own self-images, and how we situate ourselves in society.

Painted in 2013, the year that Lynette Yiadom-Boakye was nominated for the Turner Prize, Liberation Two-Piece (estimate: £200,000-300,000) is steeped with art-historical echoes. Her paintings have the gravity and grace of nineteenth-century portraits by John Singer Sargent while their shadows play with the chiaroscuro drama of Goya and Caravaggio. The noble profile of the sitter in Portrait of Isabella of Aragon, Duchess of Milan (1470-1524, estimate: £200,000 – 300,000), painted by a follower of Leonardo da Vinci, is a product of power and patronage, broadcasting a poised, compelling image for posterity. In The Stars (2008, estimate: £200,000-300,000), Michaël Borremans quite literally turns away from convention to create an enigmatic study in body language. Although dramatized in Old Masterly brushstrokes, the work suspends character, narrative and even the subject’s expression just out of the picture. Happy Birthday (2019, estimate: £20,000-30,000) exemplifies the boldness and beauty of Amoako Boafo’s portraiture. Boafo counts Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Kerry James Marshall, Jordan Casteel and Kehinde Wiley among his influences alongside Egon Schiele who he cites as the painter who inspired him to be free with his own strokes, characters and composition.

The skull, musical instruments, coins and jewellery arranged in Edwaert Collier’s composition, A vanitas still life with coins, pearls, a pocket watch, eyeglasses, an earthenware candleholder, a skull, musical instruments, books, an overturned roemer, sheet music, a globe and an hourglass table before a curtain (1661, estimate: £40,000-60,000), are familiar symbols in the vocabulary of vanitas. A violin string is conspicuously snapped. Spectacles, books and a globe warn that even learning is in vain. We are reminded that all human life drifts past like music, or sand through an hourglass. The conch, candlestick, fish and fruit in David Salle’s 1998 Angels in the Rain (estimate: £100,000-150,000) are plucked from context to take part in a discordant clash of cycling bears, angelic statues and abstract pattern.

Faith and Mortality
Lucio Fontana’s Crocifisso (1950–1955, estimate: £150,000-200,000) is a superb example of the artist’s Baroque spirit in action. With deft use of raw terracotta, a black backdrop and vivid splashes of white, Fontana conjures a crucified Christ that glows with dynamic energy, bringing a time-honoured subject into the modern era. Jacopo Bassano’s sixteenth-century The Agony in the Garden (estimate: £150,000-250,000) depicts Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper. His disciples sleep before him as his captors approach with burning torches; an angel holds a cup that symbolises his impending sacrifice. The golden light of dawn, however, glows softly in the distance, suggesting the hope of salvation. Art, for Old Master and Young British Artist alike, can transcend life on earth to speak of the divine.

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