Found

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  • Provenance

    Haunch of Venison, Zürich
    W. S., Hamburg
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Haunch of Venison, Shadow of a Daydream, 15 November 2007 - 12 January 2008, p. 35 (illustrated, p. 34)

  • Literature

    Juerg Judin, ed., Adrian Ghenie, Ostfildern, 2009, p. 51 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Thematically surreal and stylistically visceral, Adrian Ghenie’s Found is a powerful work that exemplifies the artist’s unique painterly idiom and the astute lens through which he probes the uncomfortable ambiguities of human history. The viewer is presented with a foreboding and uncanny mise-en-scène steeped in darkness – theatrically lit to reveal a disorienting space in which architectural forms shift in and out of each other. Enclosed by a structure evocative of a casket, a haunting figure emerges from the shadows of a four-post bed, its face rising out of the shadows as a ghostly white blur. Executed in 2007, Found belongs to a cycle of fifteen works from Ghenie’s Shadow of a Daydream series, exhibited at his breakthrough show at Haunch of Venison in Zurich, 2007. Delving into the mantles of history, this series set the foundation for Ghenie’s famed Pie Fight series, 2008-2009, and already laid out many of the themes that Ghenie would continue to explore in his celebrated contribution to the Romanian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

    Found is an intuitive example of Ghenie’s enduring fascination with political and historical figures, demonstrating how, as Martin Croomer observed, ‘Ghenie’s paintings indicate an acute awareness of political and ideological dysfunction’ (Martin Coomer, Adrian Ghenie: Shadow of a Daydream, Zurich, 2009, p. 35). Born in 1977 in Baia Mare, Romania, Ghenie spent his formative years living under the regime of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, eventually witnessing the revolution that concluded in the political leader’s execution. This experience serves as a backdrop to Ghenie’s politically-charged work to this day.

    In the manner of his painterly forbearers, such as Gerhard Richter, Ghenie explores the trauma of history through painting. The artist draws on found source material and art historical references, often combining photographs and film stills, or building three-dimensional models to construct surreal, psychologically charged universes. As Ghenie indeed asserted, ‘I’m not a history painter but I am fascinated by what happened in the 20th century and how it continues to shape today’ (Adrian Ghenie, quoted in Jane Neal, ‘Adrian Ghenie’, Art Review, issue 46, December 2010, p. 70).

    In Found, Ghenie presents us with Vladimir Lenin laying in state. While contorted with brief glimpses of detailed features, as evident in the work of Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon – a typical painterly strategy within Ghenie’s oeuvre – closer consideration reveals that the depiction of the figure echoes period photographs of Lenin’s embalmed body on display in a mausoleum in Russia’s Red Square shortly after his death in 1924. Consistent with Ghenie’s painterly style, Lenin’s face appears contorted, his features ghostly against the dark background. We also see paint dragged across the picture plane recalling Richter’s squeegeed abstracts. Serving as the artist’s first treatment of the potency of Lenin’s image, Found precedes later works in which Ghenie zooms into the haunting image of Lenin’s face such as The Leader, 2008, which resides in the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp.

    ‘You can’t invent a painting from scratch,’ Ghenie stated, ‘you are working with an entire tradition … The pictorial language of the twentieth century, from Kurt Schwitters’s collages to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, makes up a range of possibilities that I utilise in order to create a transhistorical figurative painting – a painting of the image as such, of representation’ (Adrian Ghenie, quoted in ‘Adrian Ghenie in Conversation with Magda Radu’, Adrian Ghenie: Darwin’s Room, exh. cat., Romanian Pavilion, Biennale de Venezia, 2015, p. 31). Encapsulating the central tenets of Ghenie’s acclaimed painterly practice, Found transcends historical specificity to put forward a more universal investigation of trauma, memory, and human subjectivity, but also questions of representation at large.

47

Found

signed and dated 'Ghenie 2007' on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
160.5 x 151 cm (63 1/4 x 59 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2007.

Estimate
£300,000 - 500,000 

sold for £249,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2018