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  • Provenance

    Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Everything I choose is some kind of object that is generally rooted and thread into our daily life … You take something very familiar that we all know and make it yours. It makes you feel alive.” ADAM McEWEN

    Dessau, from 2008, is representative of the distinctive body of work by the British neo-Conceptual artist Adam McEwen who has been based in New York since 2000. It belongs to a series of paintings in which McEwen uses blobs of chewed, dirty gum to create abstract compositions on canvases: “I chew the gum. Well, I pay people to chew the gum. Students get 50 cents for each piece. Then we take the gum and make it dirty with street shit. I want it to be both elegant and real” (Adam McEwen in conversation with Christopher Bollen, Interview Magazine). The apparent simplicity of these works is deepened by their titles that reveal undercurrents of meaning – they reference the bombings of German cities during the World War II, and in the case of the present lot, Dessau, the town in Germany on the confluence of the rivers Mulde and Elbe that was almost completely destroyed by Allied air raids on 7 March 1945.

    In the present lot, the differently coloured gum spots are set against the white canvas, evoking dirty city pavements but also referencing the bomb explosions on the ground during the air raids. Through this personal exploration of world’s history in his art, the artist creates a bizarre mockery of the idea of death. Interestingly, McEwen was formerly an obituary writer for the Daily Telegraph, and as an artist he often plays with the notion of death, and both occupations come together in another body of work where he writes elaborate obituaries about famous people who are still alive, such as Bill Clinton, Kate Moss and Jeff Koons. According to the artist, “these obits are melancholy but not morbid”, and in this way are just like the gum paintings that are melancholic but leavened by irony.

3

Dessau

2008
acrylic and chewing gum on canvas
229 x 165 cm (90 1/8 x 64 7/8 in)
Signed and dated twice ‘A. McEwen 2008’ on the overlap and on the stretcher bar on the reverse.

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £121,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012
London