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  • Provenance

    Galerie M, Bochum
    Galerie Franz Swetec, Griesheim/Darmstadt
    Galerie Reckermann, Cologne
    Private Collection, North Rhine-Westphalia (acquired from the above in 1982)
    Ketterer Kunst GmbH & Co KG, Munich, 13 June 2015, lot 805
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Systematically presenting the viewer with a serialised, geometric composition, R72-73-M-14 is emblematic of Jan Schoonhoven’s vital investigation into light, form and volume. From a series of fourteen works created in collaboration with students of Bochum University, the present work belongs to the artist’s pivotal body of white reliefs. It was for his reliefs that the artist gained international acclaim in 1967 when awarded second prize at the São Paulo Biennale with ‘by far the most sensitive three-dimensional works in the biennale’ (Antoon Melissen, Jan Schoonhoven, Rotterdam, 2015, p. 107).
    Presenting an encounter between manufactured and accidental geometry, the present work echoes the architectural surroundings of Schoonhoven's hometown of Delft. Displaying ultimate simplicity, the minimal and architectural distinction of Schoonhoven’s sculptural papier-mâché reliefs originates from the artist’s fascination with buildings. Moving away from his geometric, linear drawings, in 1956 Schoonhoven commenced his experimentations with cardboard, papier-mâché, glue and paint to construct buildings, fortresses and zoos for his son. Replicating the facades, roofs, and building structures of his hometown and their reflections in ripples of the canals, Schoonhoven’s reliefs demonstrate the artist’s acute sensibility to his surroundings. As he affirmed, ‘the order, the discipline is mirrored in my work’ (Jan Schoonoven, quoted in Antoon Melissen, Jan Schoonhoven, Rotterdam, 2015, p. 107).

    Titled R72-73-M-14, the work reveals the artist’s disciplined referencing system; whereby 'R' refers to relief and '72-73', the year of the works conception. As this work originates from a specially commissioned project initiated by Galerie M and Galerij Orez Mobiel, 'M' refers to the project for Gallery M in Bochum and '14' to the artist’s inventory number. The artist’s relationship with Alexander Von Berswordt-Wallrabe of Gallery M in Bochum resulted in six solo exhibitions between 1969 - 1972. The present work from the initiative of Von Berswordt-Wallrabe and the artist, comes from a series of 14 closely interrelated reliefs. These works from 1972-1973 each have a letter ‘M’ in the title and paved the way for more restrained imagery which was closely related to the artist’s output from his ZERO years, 1960 - 1965. Harnessing his minimalistic output, Schoonhoven played a founding role in the Dutch Group, Nul, a collective of Dutch artists established between 1961 and 1966 and collaborated closely with key members of the German ZERO network and its international following. His reliefs are based on a single theme, what the artist referred to as ‘a gradual vertical division of parallel horizontal cells’ (Antoon Melissen, Jan Schoonhoven, Rotterdam, 2015, p. 128, 132–133). With a poetic interplay of light and shadow, the present work reminds us of Schoonhoven’s assertion from 1965 that ‘ZERO is first of all a new idea of reality, to which the individualism of the artist is reduced to a minimum’ (Jan Schoonhoven, quoted in Antoon Melissen, Jan Schoonhoven, Rotterdam, 2015, p. 128, 132–133). Schoonhoven’s preoccupation with form and volume unfurls from the troughs of the structure. ‘….As a kinetic instrument reacts to the ever-changing movement of the wind, thereby drawing attention to it, Schoonhoven’s relief, as a static, serially-structured instrument, reacts to the light through constantly changing chiaroscuro patterns that could never be represented mimetically as both themselves and their particular variations. It deliberately renders light as being beyond any form of mimesis’ (Max Imdahl, ‘Jan J. Schoonhoven’, in Norbert Kunisch, Erläuterungen zur Modernen Kunst, Bochum, 1990, p. 229).

    Maintaining the calculated, architectural quality of his earlier drawings, Schoonhoven’s R72-73-M-14 recalls the depth and subtle symmetry of Piet Mondrian’s orderly compositions. In its sculptural excellence, R72-73-M-14 is distinct from the clean modernist conception of precision. The irregular surface finish reaffirms the artist’s craftsmanship and mastery of materials, consciously asserting that it has ‘nothing to do with the mechanical’ (Ad de Visser, De tweede helft: beeldende kunst na 1945, Nijmegen, 1998, p. 153). Playing a fundamental role in the discourse around objective art and the tangibility of form, between 1961 and 1966 Schoonhoven co-founded the Dutch Nul Group together with Henk Peeters. This assembly of Dutch artists, previously known as the Nederlands Informel Group, as explained in a letter from Peeters to Barnett Newman, shared a common ‘desire for silence, emptiness and space’ (Henk Peeters, quoted in Antoon Melissen, Jan Schoonhoven, Rotterdam, 2015, p. 53). In line with Newman, Schoonhoven aspired to communicate locality, existence and eventuality in his work. Devoid of visual hierarchy, the artist abandoned the creative traditions of the past, harnessing the minimalist serialised and repetitive nature of his unembellished structures.

    By the time the artist was bestowed the honour of the São Paolo Biennal in 1967, Schoonhoven had an established international presence; the artist had already collaborated with the likes of Enrico Castellani, Piero Manzoni, Yayoi Kusama and key members of the ZERO network internationally. Fascinated by ‘the geometric aspect of ZERO [as] created by the element of repetition, the placement in rows’ (Armando et al., De nieuwe stijl, werk van de internationale avant-garde, deel 1, Amsterdam, 1965, pp. 118-123), the minimalism of Manzoni and Castellani’s influence resounds through Schoonhoven’s oeuvre, interpreting his view of the ‘organization of very simple forms, a reality derived from that which actually exists’ (Jan Schoonhoven, quoted in Armando et al., De nieuwe stijl, werk van de internationale avant-garde, vol. 1, Amsterdam, 1965, pp. 118-23). From the zenith of his development as an artist, the present relief displays Schoonhoven’s fascination with the interchange of light and shadow. Methodically constructed, with grid-like structures and symmetrical indentations, R72-73-M-14, tranquil in its stark whiteness, remains timelessly rooted in the legacy of Jan Schoonhoven’s internationally celebrated artistic output.

Property of a Distinguished Private Collector



signed, titled and dated 'J. J. Schoonhoven "R72-73-M-14" Jan J Schoonhoven 1973' on the reverse
painted papier-mâché relief on board
126.2 x 68 cm (49 5/8 x 26 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1972 - 1973, Antoon Melissen has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

£250,000 - 350,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £441,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2018