As part of ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century on 10 July 2020, Christies
will offer seminal paintings by Adrian Ghenie and Cecily Brown as leading highlights in London. An extraordinary, cinematic vision spanning two metres in width, The Arrival 3 (2015, estimate: £3,000,000-5,000,000) is an outstanding large-scale painting by Adrian Ghenie. Against a vibrant backdrop of rich, abstract texture and swirling, hallucinatory forms, a central figure looms large, clad in a crisp black suit. A pyrotechnic expanse of colour and movement, Carnival and Lent (2006-2008, estimate: £4,000,000 - 6,000,000) exemplifies Cecily Browns command of oil paint. Inspired by Pieter Brueghel the Elders 1559 masterpiece The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, its 2.5-meter canvas creates an all-engulfing textural and chromatic world, with hints at figure and form caught in swirls, tangles and marbled blurs of pigment.
André Zlattinger, Deputy Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art Europe: Christies is thrilled to offer these exceptional paintings by two artists who represent the gamut of painting in the 21st century. Cecily Brown was recently included in the Whitechapel Gallerys group exhibition Radical Figures which focused on those pushing the boundaries of representation. Her sources are hugely varied and Carnival and Lent places her work in dialogue with Old Masters. Adrian Ghenies paintings explore moments of significant change in history using figures the viewer may not want to confront but is suddenly compelled to do so. Presenting these two innovative painters in our new relay-format auction, provides a global context within which their work can be viewed.
The warm terracottas, visceral reds and cooler touches of lavender and teal in Cecily Browns Carnival and Lent echo the palette of Brueghels painting, detonating his birds eye crowd scene into an immersive, fleshy scape of abstracted energy. Brueghel depicts Prince Carnival and Lady Lentpersonifications of drunken appetite versus spiritual disciplinein a farcical joust, splitting his composition between the patrons of the inn and church that flank a Netherlandish town square. His work teems with earthy humour, playful detail and intricate symbolism. Its conflict between ribald abandon and monastic restraint makes it an apt figure for Browns practice, which draws vivid life from the tension between abstraction and figuration. In Carnival and Lents lush bacchanal of hues it might seem clear that carnival has won out, but the work is nonetheless held together by Browns keen eye for structure: her paintings are unresolved battles between chaos and control, between body and mind, and between painter and paint itself.
Painted in 2015, the year that Adrian Ghenie represented Romania at the Venice Biennale, Arrival depicts Doctor Josef Mengele: the infamous Nazi physician, whose ghostly form recurs throughout the artists oeuvre. Informed by his own upbringing under totalitarian rule, Ghenie is fascinated by how we visualise the past. By translating his subjects into visceral, carnal spectres, the artist forces us to confront them as living, breathing beings, highlighting the ways in which we instinctively distance ourselves from our own history. While the present works title might be seen to refer to Mengeles exiled arrival in South America, or, more broadly, the advent of a dark new chapter in European history, it also conjures the sense of revelation that Ghenie seeks to inspire in his viewers. Through the dense, painterly chaos of the works surface, we arrive at a moment of disturbing recognition, face to face with the horrors of the past. Ghenies complex historical imagination is founded upon an interest in turning points. Third Reich officials sit alongside Charles Darwin and Vincent Van Gogh as key members of his cast: all of them figures who, in the artists mind, ruptured the course of humanity.