Phillips announces highlights from the London Spring Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art

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Phillips announces highlights from the London Spring Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art
Frank Stella, Scramble, Ascending Spectrum / Ascending Green Values, 1977. Acrylic on canvas, 175.3 x 175.3 cm. Estimate £2,000,000 — 3,000,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- On 15 and 16 April, Phillips’ London Spring auctions of 20th Century & Contemporary Art will include works by Modern, Post-War, Contemporary, and American masters. The Evening Sale will be held on 15 April at 5pm, with the Day Sale following on 16 April at 2:30pm. The catalogues for the Evening and Day sales will go live on 1 April with virtual viewing following from 7 to 11 April. The public viewing will be open at Phillips Berkeley Square from 12 to 15 April.

Olivia Thornton, Head of the 20th Century & Contemporary Department in London, said, “We are delighted to present our first London 20th Century & Contemporary Art auction of 2021 which includes a fantastic cross section of key periods of Modern and Contemporary art. The Evening Sale features not only a remarkable work by Jean Dubuffet but also important pieces from leading figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko and Frank Stella alongside auction newcomers.”

Leading the Evening Sale is Jean Dubuffet’s La féconde journée, a rare and important example of the artist’s work which was included in Dubuffet’s major centenary retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2001. La féconde journée will be offered at auction for the first time in London this April, shortly before Dubuffet’s seminal retrospective at the Barbican later this year.

American artists to feature include Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Mark Tansey, Andy Warhol, and John Currin. Rothko’s vast canvas of deep enveloping colour, Untitled (Black Blue Painting) was painted in 1968 at the peak of the artist’s career when he was focused upon simplifying colour. Stella’s hypnotic Scramble, Ascending Spectrum / Ascending Green Values is a vibrant and visually striking symmetrical composition which stems from the artist’s Concentric Square series. Also on offer is Warhol’s One Grey / Black Marilyn (Reversal Series) II-50-160, which revisits the artist's most renowned subject, Marylin Monroe, here printed in negative.

Presented in the Evening Sale are a number of works by French masters, including Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, and Alberto Giacometti. Duchamp’s 1964 L.H.O.O.Q is a salacious transformation of the original Mona Lisa, a subject to which he consistently returned throughout his career, and in this instance to which he simply added a moustache and beard. The present work is from an edition of 35 + 3 which were divided between the artist and his two friends Arturo Schwarz and Pierre de Massot. Other variants of L.H.O.O.Q reside in prestigious institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, the Staatliches Museum Schwerin and the Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem.

Phillips will bring Alberto Giacometti’s 1953 bronze sculpture Nu debout II to auction this Spring ahead of The Giacometti: A Family of Creators, a major exhibition at the Fondation Maeght which is sponsored by Phillips and opens this July. The present work is a portrait of the artist’s wife Annette Arm which was previously owned by renowned collector G. David Thompson and acquired by the present owner in 1978.

Artists to feature in the Evening Sale who, like Dubuffet and Giacometti, have recently been or are soon to be the subject of major retrospectives are El Anatsui (Kunstmuseum Bern, 2020) and Paula Rego (Tate Britain, 2021). Paula Rego’s The Aunt (Nada) depicts a scene inspired by Carmen Laforet’s celebrated novel Nada about an orphaned girl who goes to study at her aunt’s house. Rego’s aunt is stern amongst a backdrop of objects and animals, a reflection of Rego’s references to the novel as well as her ability to illustrate multiple emotions, stories and symbols in one composition.

Hailing from the collection of the esteemed architect and design pioneer Florence Knoll is Marino Marini’s Piccolo Cavaliere. Executed in 1949 at the height or Marini’s career, this bronze sculpture reflects the artist’s raw and visceral vision of the symbiotic relationship between man and beast.

Tamara de Lempicka’s Figure esquissée sur fond doré, painted circa 1930, reflects a unique spectrum of art-historical influences including Cubism and Italian Mannerism, as well as the glamour of Hollywood films popular at that time. An Art Deco Icon, De Lempicka is known for pre-war society portraits featuring luminously smooth skinned aristocrats in gilded settings, as shown in the present work.

The front-run of young artists includes Joy Labinjo, Emily Mae Smith, Lina Iris Viktor. Joy Labinjo’s Untitled, bordering between figuration and abstraction, is a depiction of the artist as a child with her aunt. Emily Mae Smith’s 2015 Waiting Room is a hypnotic example of the artist’s sleek and highly imaginative language as well as her subtle feminist agenda. Lina Iris Viktor is an auction newcomer whose work was recently celebrated through a solo show at the Fotografiska museum in Stockholm. Viktor’s Constellations III, painted in 2017, is a gilded and luminous patchwork of intricate patterns.

Mickalene Thomas’ Clarivel Right is a further highlight of the Evening Sale. Known for bold compositions, photo sets, installations and collage portraits, Thomas’ work can be found in collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C, among others.

Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Day Sale, 16 April
Held in conjunction with the Day Sale is a single owner auction titled Out of the Blue: Works from The Collection of Enea Righi. Highlights of the Day Sale include exceptional works from Victor Vasarely and John Chamberlain. Vasarely’s self-portrait is a uniquely figurative work which references cubism as well as German expressionism. The crisis and inner turmoil experienced by the artist during and in the aftermath of WW2 is shown through these fragmented self-portraits with which he began to experiment in the early 1940s. John Chamberlain’s Mezzomangle is a painted steel sculpture which forms a kaleidoscope of colour exuded through a textured series of metal twists. Chamberlain’s expression of colour, movement and balance references Abstract Expressionism as well as Pop Art, and Minimalism.

Further highlights to feature in the Day Sale include works by Adrian Ghenie, Claire Tabouret, Sterling Ruby, and auction newcomer Cindy Ji Hye Kim. Canadian-Korean artist Cindy Ji Hye Kim has received growing critical acclaim following a number of solo exhibitions, most recently at Rodolphe Janssen in 2020. Kim’s work explores the humour in horror, female representation and voyeurism through a technique both routed in art history and the graphic present day. Claire Tabouret’s photograph-like composition The Soccer Team is a monumental canvas which transforms the team info life sized figures. SP 151 by Sterling Ruby resembles a barred window through which a dark sky is visible. The richly textured, large-scale painting on canvas is part of the artist’s Spray Painting series initiated in 2007. One of the most prominent painters practising in contemporary art today, Adrian Ghenie’s visually arresting canvases have become an icon of modern painting. Playing as bob exemplifies his use of paper collage and acrylic which exude a strong sense of textile and depth.

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