Abe Lincoln

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Neal Auction Company, New Orleans, 13 July 2013, lot 353
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Banksy presents the world with a conundrum. His work is some of the most iconic of the contemporary age—and yet the Bristol-based graffiti artist remains largely anonymous. Two of only three known unique versions painted in 2008, his pictures of Abe Lincoln show him confronting and disrupting another icon—one of the most famous Presidents of the United States of America. In these pictures, Banksy has taken the famed face of ‘Honest Abe’ and transformed him into a ghoulish, comical presence. In one of them, googly eyes appear to pop out of his head as though from a skull; in the other, there is a spectral halo around the eyes, as though they were glowing. These potentially sinister traits are deliberately undermined by the stenciled decoration behind him, and in one case, by the green polka dots that cover his face and shirt.

    These two pictures on cardboard—from a series of only three—were created in 2008 when Banksy visited New Orleans, three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. There, Banksy used the still-tattered urban fabric of New Orleans as an eloquent backdrop for his critiques of the situation. Banksy’s works encapsulated sympathy, anger and above all humour, reacting accusingly to the inadequate aid and slow subsequent clean-up operations there. In one case, Banksy painted Abraham Lincoln as a homeless man, pushing a trolley full of goods, using the same stencil he would employ for these works on cardboard. The building upon which Banksy had painted his image of Lincoln has since been demolished to make way for a healthcare facility.

    Banksy’s use of the instantly-recognisable features of Lincoln as a visual theme demonstrated his laser-sharp sense of satire. Lincoln was the great figurehead of the emancipation movement, liberating the slaves of the Southern states—many of whose descendants remain at a socio-economic disadvantage throughout America. During Hurricane Katrina, that legacy of structural discrimination was felt all the more keenly as the poorer black areas of New Orleans suffered the greatest losses when the levee broke. Depicting Lincoln walking the streets, pushing his cart, searingly highlighted the shortcomings of his political descendants. After all, Lincoln, like the Bush administration on whose watch Katrina hit, was a Republican. In these distorted, dystopian depictions, the conundrums provided by historical hindsight are explored to different effect, with Banksy presenting a Lincoln who is less an emancipator or a martyr and more an ectoplasmic boogieman.

    Lincoln was one of the first US Presidents to make use of photography in order to promote himself. In the years leading up to his first presidential election, photographs were disseminated to give him a more human aspect, countering rumours of his unusual height and supposed ugliness. Lincoln’s success in making himself instantly recognisable, combined with his assassination, resulted in a strong pictorial legacy. This in turn makes Lincoln all the more apt as a subject for Bansky’s ghost-train-style interventions. The iconic image has been converted, with Banksy deflating the reverence that often surrounds Lincoln’s legacy, and instead showing him as a comical ghoul.

    Banksy’s mural campaign in New Orleans, where these two Abe Lincoln works were created, received largely positive acclaim, although inevitably some of the works were defaced, removed or otherwise destroyed. Subsequently, Banksy himself would reflect upon the campaign with his customary wit and self-deprecation: ‘I wanted to highlight the state of the clean-up operation. Only later did it dawn on me that if you choose to do this by drawing all over their stuff, you’re actually only slowing down that clean-up operation’ (Banksy, quoted in G. Shove & P. Potter, Banksy: You are an Acceptable Level of Threat, Darlington, 2018, unpaginated).

  • Catalogue Essay

    班克斯是當世的一道謎。他的創作是當代藝術中最具代表性的作品之一,然而這位布里斯托出身的塗鴉藝術家,世人至今還不知道其真實身份。創作於2008年的《亞伯林肯》為目前所知的三件獨立作品中的兩幅,主題顯示了他對另一偶像人物-美國歷史上最著名的總統之一-的面對和破壞。在這些畫像中,班克斯將「誠實的亞伯」 之著名面孔變成了一個空洞鬼魅的、滑稽的存在。其中的一幅,畫中林肯的雙眼彷彿從他的頭骨中暴突出來;另一幅作品,其眼睛周圍帶著光暈,彷彿在發射光芒。這些潛在的陰險特徵故意地用印在他身後的模板裝飾來隱去,而在另一件作品中則用綠色的波點將其臉部和襯衫掩蓋住。

    這兩幅繪於紙板上的創作-來自該系列中僅有的三件作品-是班克斯在2008年訪問新奧爾良時所作,也就是當地遭颶風卡崔娜破壞的三年後。在那裡,班克斯利用新奧爾良當時仍然破敗的城市結構作為對局勢的批評,以此背景下創作此一系列。班克斯的作品包含了同情、憤怒,更重要的還有幽默感,對不充分的救援和緩慢的災後清理行動做出指責。在另一個作品中,班克斯將亞伯林肯繪畫成一個無家可歸的人,推著裝滿貨物的手推車,並在其上運用了與此紙板作品中同樣的模板裝飾。班克斯曾繪製亞伯林肯的形象之牆面已被拆除,以便騰出空間來建造醫療設施。

    班克斯對林肯的即時識別形象之使用作為一個視覺主題,展示了他敏銳的諷刺意味。林肯是解放運動中,倡導解放南方各州奴隸的偉大領袖人物-而其中許多人的後裔在現今美國仍處於社會經濟劣勢。在颶風卡崔娜災害期間,當防洪堤被摧毀時,新奧爾良較貧窮的黑人地區遭受了最大程度的損失,而歷史上遺留下來的結構性種族歧視的體會也因此更加深切。對林肯在大街上推著手推車形象的描繪,煞費苦心地突出了他遺留後世的政治缺陷。畢竟,正如當颶風卡崔娜來襲時執政的布希政權,林肯也是共和黨人。在這些扭曲的、反烏托邦的描繪中,歷史後見之明所呈現的難題被探索到不同的效果,在班克斯的展現下,林肯非但不是一個解放者和殉道者的形象,而更像是一個惡鬼。

    林肯是美國歷史上首批利用攝影來推廣自己形象的總統之一。在他第一次總統大選之前的幾年裡,攝影的傳播給予了他更為人性化的一面,以此用來反駁他超出尋常的身高和面目醜陋的謠言。林肯成功地為自己打造了他的普羅的識別形象,加上他被暗殺,帶來了強烈的歷史紀憶之效果。這讓林肯更加成為班克斯系列創造主題的不二之選。在班克斯的創作下,原本林肯備受崇敬的形象已然轉換成了一個滑稽的食屍鬼樣貌。

    班克斯在新奧爾良的塗鴉行動中創作了兩件《亞伯林肯》,部分作品雖然不可避免的受到污損、清除或破壞,同時也得到了很多正面的讚譽。隨後,班克斯本人以他慣常的機智和自貶來反思這個行動:「我當時想強調災後清理行動的狀況。只是後來我才發現,如果選擇用到處塗鴉的方式來實現這一目的,實際上反而會減慢清理行動。」(班克斯,引自G. Shove & P. Potter, 班克斯:你不過就是一個可承受程度內的威脅, 達靈頓, 2018,未註明頁碼)

  • Artist Bio

    Banksy

    British • 1975 - N/A

    Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a miserable fourteen year old disillusioned with school. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and walls in 1993, and by 2001 his blocky, spray-painted works had cropped up all over the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His aesthetic is clean and instantly readable due to his knack for reducing complex political and social statements to simple visual elements.



    His graffiti, paintings and screenprints use whimsy and humour to satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed — with not even the Royal family safe from his anti-establishment wit.

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Property from a Prominent Hong Kong Collection

Banksy

Abe Lincoln

2008
initialed and inscribed '☮ Ⓑ ♡' lower right
spray paint on cardboard
89.9 x 59.9 cm. (35 3/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2008, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Estimate
HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 
€112,000-224,000
$128,000-256,000

Place Advance Bid

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018