“Untitled” (Portrait of Marcel Brient)

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  • Provenance

    Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York; Galerie Jennifer Flay, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Musee d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Passions privées: Collections particulières d’art moderne et contemporain en France, December 16, 1995 – March 24, 1996, p. 663 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    F. Gonzalez-Torres and R. Nickas, “Felix Gonzalez-Torres. All the Time in the World” (interview), in Flash Art, November/ December 1991, cover (detail illustrated); J. Avgikos, S. Cahan, and T. Rollins, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, A.R.T. Press, Los Angeles 1993, p. 81 (detail illustrated); E. Troncy, “Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Placebo,” in Art Press, June 1993, pp. 3 and 34 (illustrated); N. Spector, “Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York 1995, pp. 146 – 48 (detail illustrated)
    F. Gonzalez-Torres and T. Rollins, interview in Between Artists, Los Angeles 1996, p. 79 (illustrated)
    S. Maniero Montiel, “La Huella como Metaforo. Felix Gonzalez- Torres 1957–996,” in Estilo, April/May 1996, p. 50 (illustrated)
    “Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Album”, in Blocnotes, September/ October 1996, p. 87 (detail illustrated)
    D. Elger, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern- Ruit 1997, p. 100, no. 189 (illustrated)
    J. Ault, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, New York 2006, p. 99 (detail illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Felix gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Portrait of Marcel Brient)
     
    The candy pieces are the most celebrated and iconic series by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Made in a short span of just three years, between 1990 and 1993, the candy pieces are works of great physical beauty and immediacy of physical appeal: shimmering masses of edible color spilled across the floor or piled in the corner of a room. The candy pieces are remarkable, too, for their combination of the private and the public. They are works of real intimacy, charged with associations whose meanings were fully known only by the artist; yet these works are meant to be shared in the most direct and unstinting way with the viewers, who are welcome to take pieces from the pile, and eat them. Works of visual art are usually meant to please only one of the senses, but the candy pieces stimulate all the senses, not only sight, but touch, hearing, smell and taste too as the viewer handles, unwraps and consumes the candy. Furthermore, paintings and sculptures are usually fixed in their dimensions, but Felix gave only ideal weights and/or dimensions for the candy pieces, permitting them to change in the future according to the installation, and the wishes of the owner. The works are thus inherently dynamic, mutable, and renewable. Immediate but profound, beautiful though conceptual, private yet generous: the candy pieces perfectly embody some of the outstanding characteristics of Felix Gonzalex-Torres’s art.
     
    “Untitled” (Portrait of Marcel Brient) is an especially important example in the series. It is one of only two such works all in blue — a color especially beloved by the artist; it is the only one in the series to bear a word on the original wrapper that represents an aspect of character or of a psychological or moral state — PASSION; and it is seemingly the only portrait among the candy pieces to represent another living person. Of Gonzalez-Torres’s nineteen candy pieces, only six, by their parenthetical titles and ideal weights, can be readily interpreted as portraits. Of these two are double portraits of the artist and his lover, Ross Laycock; two are portraits of Ross alone; one is a portrait of Felix’s recently deceased father; and the present work is a portrait of the artist’s close friend, the important French collector, Marcel Brient. The other candy portraits have an element of elegy and lamentation mixed in with the beauty, while the present work instead seems to focus more exclusively on joy and celebration.
     
    Gonzalez-Torres and Brient had first met in Paris in the spring of 1992 and soon became very close. Brient was a prescient and active collector of pieces by Felix. His love of, and sense of identification with, the artist’s work is very great; indeed, he has even said in an interview, “Gonzalez-Torres, c’est moi.”
     
    In his childhood Brient had collected candy wrappers, which he found to be so beautiful he would iron out the wrinkles in them and preserve them in a book. Unfortunately, his sister one day had thrown out the book, and Brient still felt the loss of this treasured collection. Gonzalez-Torres saw this story as emblematic of Marcel’s intense love for art and beauty. The artist requested that Brient gather examples of different candies that reminded him of his childhood collection. Brient did so, and Gonzalez-Torres immediately chose from these one whose wrapper was inscribed PASSION. He selected this candy presumably because the word perfectly captures an outstanding feature of Brient’s personality: his all-encompassing enthusiasm, not just for life, love, and beauty,but specifically for discovering, enjoying, understanding, acquiring and sharing new works of art.
     
    The blue color of the wrapper also surely appealed to Felix. Blue is the color of the sky and of the sea, two symbols of release transcendence in his work. Of his passion for the color, Felix has said, “I love blue skies. I love blue oceans. Ross and I would spend summers next to a blue body of water of under clear, Canadian blue skies.” Light plays an important part in many of Felix’s works as well, and that is true in the present case, where the surface of the glimmering, glittering pile of blue candies looks something like a sun-dappled wave.
     
    Gonzalez-Torres’s candy piece portraits are a remarkable step in the history of portraiture, which has slowly evolved away from emphasis on actual appearance. At the outset of the revival of portraiture in the fifteenth century the focus was almost solely on the accurate depiction of the physical features of the sitter. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, artists instead generally tried to depict both the look and the character of the person shown. In the modern era, by contrast, Picasso and others frequently distorted the sitter’s appearance as a means of showing the person’s interior state more forcefully or truthfully. But few artists before ever went so far as Gonzalez-Torres has done in eliminating almost all references to the actual appearance of the portrayed.
     
    Portraiture normally strives to give a permanent record of a person; it is an assertion of stability against the flux of time, an attempt to capture a moment, a presence, before it slips away. Yet Gonzalez-Torres imagined the portrait as inherently dynamic and open to change. And he saw in this possibility a means of continuation, as new visitors come and take pieces away, and the pile of candy is continuously replenished. The original vitality of the work goes on, not because it is fixed, but because it is renewed.
     
    This desire for the permanent renewal of a moment of beauty and love is fundamental to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s art. The artist has spoken of the importance of “the fear of loss and the joy of loving, of growing, of changing, of always becoming more, of losing oneself slowly and then being replenished all over again from scratch. I need the viewer, I need the public interaction. Without a public these works are nothing, nothing. I need the public to complete the work. I ask the public to help me, to take responsibility, to become part of my work, to join in.” (T. Rollins, interview with Felix Gonzalez-Torres, in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Los Angeles 1993, p. 23)
     

4

“Untitled” (Portrait of Marcel Brient)

Executed in 1992
Candies, individually wrapped in light-blue cellophane (endless supply).
Ideal weight: 198.5 lbs (90 kg); dimensions vary with installation.

This work is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist.

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

sold for $4,562,500

Carte Blanche

8 November 2010  6pm
New York