Two Works: (i) Jean Louis with one Ear; (ii) Jean Louis’ Wife's Sister

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, New York, 29 September 2016, Lot 218
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    (i) New York, Luhring Augustine Gallery, George Condo: Existential Portraits, 5 May - 3 June 2006, p.15 (illustrated)
    (ii) New York, Luhring Augustine Gallery, George Condo: Existential Portraits, 5 May - 3 June 2006, p.35 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    (ii) Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, no.276, p.242 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    What is Jean Louis? Is he a waiter, a chef, a driver? Is he a real person?
    - George Condo


    The present lots hail from George Condo’s seminal early portraiture series, Existential Portraits, a small handful of works that the artist created which investigated the human psyche. Featuring figures that ‘are questioning their existence’ (George Condo quoted in Ralph Rugoff, ‘The Enigma of Jean Louis’, in George Condo: Existential Portraits, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, p.11), Condo draws from a wide repertoire of characters, creating a cast of unlikely protagonists who each come with individual prologues concocted by the artist himself.

    Painting entirely from his imagination and art historical memory, Condo synthesises influences ranging from Old Master painting to modern day photography, with a sensibility informed by popular culture, to construct his pieces. When investigating this particular series of works, the artist offers Chuck Close’s self-portraits from the 1970s as possible points of departure—with their tightly framed compositions, they resemble photographic sources or effects, offering the audience intimate glimpses into the personas depicted.

    Speaking about the character Jean Louis in the present two lots, the artist describes the ‘imaginary butler’ as a spontaneously made-up character (George Condo quoted in Marina Cashdan, ‘The Mental States of George Condo’). Coupled with the long-regarded art historical significance of portraiture being a veritable window into the soul, the three characters—Jean Louis, his wife, and his wife’s sister—each carry their own underlying narratives, their interlinked stories a mystery to the audience. Curiously, the inspiration taken from Chuck Close’s photographic works also lends itself to another form of present-day photography: mug shots, further fuelling a somewhat clandestine understanding of the three characters’ possibly nefarious interrelationship. In particular, the title of Jean Louis with One Ear all the more calls to mind Vincent Van Gogh’s self-mutilation, a deliberate link perhaps that hints at more portentous undertones.

    Furthermore, the depiction of the two women demonstrates Condo’s penchant for exaggeration and distortion. Jean Louis’ Wife and Jean Louis’ Wife’s Sister feature two figures whose physiognomy confronts us with a threatening gaze, reminiscent of Willem de Kooning’s women or the screaming heads in Picasso’s Guernica, 1937. The palpable psychological intensity of these works is exemplary of Condo’s approach to portraiture as a form of ‘Psychological Cubism’.

    At the time of creating such works, Condo remarked that the Existential Portraits ‘have to do with the idea of people’s despair today, with the idea that they don’t really have a choice…but the choices they make are very much within the geopolitical map for how people should live their lives at any given time. So in the paintings, these characters expand beyond those boundaries’ (George Condo quoted in Ralph Rugoff, ‘The Enigma of Jean Louis’). In such pieces, the characters exist in a realm between comedy and tragedy, bound by a reaction that mirrors the typical Condo effect: a frenetic grimace that ‘goes between a scream and a smile’ (George Condo, quoted in ‘George Condo: Interview’, Time Out,
    6 February 2007, online).

  • Catalogue Essay

    到底吉恩・路易斯是誰?是服務生、廚師還是司機?他是真人嗎?— 喬治・康多

    本次拍賣這幾件作品來自喬治・康多早期重要的《存在主義肖像》系列,藝術家在這個作品數量不多的系列創作中,深刻探索人類心理。在著名的《吉恩・路易斯之謎》一作裏,藝術家選用了「對於自我存在充滿質疑」的角色入畫,從廣泛的人物中汲取靈感,創造出一群不可思議的角色,並親自為每一位鋪陳了專屬的開場敘事。(摘錄自喬治・康多於羅夫・魯格福「吉恩・路易斯之謎」一文,《喬治・康多:存在主義肖像》展覽目錄, Luhring Augustine,紐約,2006年,第11頁)

    康多的繪畫完全來自於個人想像力及其對藝術史的記憶,結合了上溯古典大師、下至現代攝影等影響,此外,當代流行文化也是構建其作品的重要元素之一。當康多創作此系列作品時,他以近乎查克・克羅斯七十年代自畫像的形式作為出發點,透過緊密的構圖,提供了類似攝影的來源或視覺效果,讓觀者從一個親密的角度,去切入觀察他筆下描繪的人物。

    然而談到這兩件作品中吉恩・路易斯這個角色,藝術家曾述這個「想像出來的管家」是即興捏造出來的人物(摘錄自喬治・康多於瑪琳納・卡許丹《喬治・康多的精神狀態》) 。在藝術史上,肖像畫向來被視為直探靈魂的窗口這樣重要的意義。吉恩・路易斯、他的妻子及妻子的姐妹這三個人物,每一個都乘載了重要的敘事。然而,他們之間發生故事所產生的交集,對觀者來說卻是個謎。有趣的是,他取擷於查克・克羅斯照相寫真作品的靈感之同時,也與現代攝影中大頭照這樣的形式相互呼應,進而加深了三者之間神秘關係可能帶著負面互動的影射。特別是《一隻耳朵的吉恩‧路易斯》這個作品名稱,顯然讓人聯想到文森・梵谷的自殘,藝術家這個刻意的連結,也許隱喻作品中其實暗藏著更多詭譎的意味。

    此外,從這兩位女性人物的描繪,觀者也顯明感受到康多對於誇張和扭曲的偏愛。《吉恩・路易斯夫人》及《吉恩・路易斯夫人姐妹》畫中人物對觀者投以威脅的凝視,讓人緬想起威廉・德・庫寧畫中女人或是畢卡索1937年名作《哥卡尼亞》中嘶吼的頭像。兩件作品中深沈的心理探視,體現了康多以肖像畫作為實踐「精神病立體主義」形式的絕佳範例。

    康多在創作這系列作品時,曾說過《存在主義肖像畫》「與當今人們存在的絕望緊緊相扣,也與人們深感人生毫無選擇的無奈心理相關聯⋯⋯但人們所做出的抉擇,卻往往又只侷限於在一個地緣環境中、有限時間內人們所被期待該如何過生活的選擇範疇之內。故此,在這些作品中,這些人物就是要去超越這些既定界限」(摘錄自喬治・康多於羅夫・魯格福「吉恩・路易斯之謎」一文)。在康多這些作品中的人物,存在於喜劇和悲劇之間,被賦予他筆下一貫經典的「處於尖叫和微笑之間」的瘋狂鬼臉(摘錄自喬治・康多於《Time Out雜誌》「喬治・康多訪談」2007年2月6日,網路文章)。

  • Artist Bio

    George Condo

    American • 1957

    Picasso once said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Indeed, American artist George Condo frequently cites Picasso as an explicit source in his contemporary cubist compositions and joyous use of paint. Condo is known for neo-Modernist compositions staked in wit and the grotesque, which draw the eye into a highly imaginary world. 

    Condo came up in the New York art world at a time when art favored brazen innuendo and shock. Student to Warhol, best friend to Basquiat and collaborator with William S. Burroughs, Condo tracked a different path. He was drawn to the endless inquiries posed by the aesthetics and formal considerations of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and the Old Masters.

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Two Works: (i) Jean Louis with one Ear; (ii) Jean Louis’ Wife's Sister

2005
(i) signed, titled and dated 'George Condo "JEAN LOUIS WITH ONE EAR" 05' on the reverse
(ii) signed and titled 'George Condo "JEAN LOUIS' WIFE'S SISTER" 05' on the reverse

oil on canvas
each 50.8 x 40.6 cm. (20 x 15 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Estimate
HK$3,500,000 - 5,500,000 
€398,000-625,000
$449,000-705,000

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Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019