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  • Provenance

    Vito Schnabel, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since forming in 2004, the American collective now known as Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) has become synonymous with their use of deadpan humour to critique traditional art histories and the contemporary fine art milieu. Anonymity has been a prudent and scrupulous trait for the collective composed of five to eight rotating artists, originally alumni of the art college Cooper Union in Manhattan. Remaining unnamed, uncredited and unidentified symbolizes an antithesis to the superstardom artists began seeking and achieving in the early years of the millennium.

    Guided by a mission “to invest the experience of public space [with] wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man’s desiring”, BHQF notoriously appropriates work from the past, creating a charged dialogue with the present. The overt appropriation in the present lot, unabashedly titled Las Meninas, is multifarious in terms of the iconographic and the aesthetic.

    First, with analogous titles, the left panel of the diptych is a reproduction of the 17th-century painting by Diego Velázquez. The group portrait of the Spanish royal family (and the inclusion of a self-portrait of the artist at the easel) is iconic and stands as the Velázquez’s most famous work. As Velázquez presents himself in Las Meninas (c. 1656) as an unrivalled painter welcomed into the royal sphere, the appropriation of the work refers back to BHQF’s rejection of the “celebrity artist”. Las Meninas (2011) is juxtaposed with a silkscreened photograph of the BHQF studio, notably absent of any artist, however, scattered with materials of art production. As such, both versions of Las Meninas are paintings regarding notions of the artist and ultimately reveal the processes of art-making.

    Formally, the black on silver silkscreening application of BHFQ’s Las Meninas serves as a visual allusion to Andy Warhol’s seminal silkscreens of the sixties. Work such as Silver Liz as Cleopatra reveal this art historical reference. By using visual codes, BHQF’s specific reference to Warhol is used to further articulate the role of the artist. Warhol serves as the clear precursor to the contemporary status of superstar artists with fame, celebrity and notoriety delineating key themes in Warhol’s work.

    Thus, through appropriation of iconography and style from icons of the past, BHQF formulates a cohesive dialogue about contemporary art practice today. “It’s been important for us to think of art history as a material, as more stuff to work with, whether it’s to honour or to disparage it. It’s as much a material as anything else, wood or plaster” (BHQF in an interview with C. Shaw, ‘Enter the Afterlife: A Conversation with the Bruce High Quality Foundation’, Art in America, March 2009). The deliberate use of specific source material underpins a breadth of art historical connoisseurship BHQF possesses.

28

Las Meninas

2011
silkscreen and paint on canvas (in two parts)
each: 259.1 x 228.6 cm (102 x 90 in); overall: 259.1 x 457.2 cm (102 x 180 in)
Each part signed ‘The Bruce High Quality Foundation’ on the overlap and stretcher.

Estimate
£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £181,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013
London