Albert Oehlen - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 7, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Patrick Painter Inc., Los Angeles
    McCabe Fine Art, Stockholm
    Dr. Frederic S. Brandt, Miami
    The Estate of Dr. Frederic S. Brandt, Miami
    Phillips, London, 14 October 2015, lot 16
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2002, Albert Oehlen’s Omegasachen-35 is a masterful example of the artist’s ‘post-non-representational’ paintings, a term he coined in the 1980s to describe his unique painterly fusion of abstraction and representation. This categorisation of his paintings began as a response to critical analysis of his work. As Oehlen has said, ‘I’m not a big theory person. So when I get asked questions that demand serious statements, I just make it up’ (Albert Oehlen, quoted in Alastair Sooke, ‘I want my paintings to like me’, The Telegraph, 1 July 2006, online). Indeed, the complexities that exist in the artist’s practice are not rooted in theory, but rather in viewer participation and reaction. What appears in the composition as perplexing is the artist’s ability to instil a sense of irony into his paintings – one that demands the viewer’s attention to the canvas and forces them to make sense of what is in front of them. He explains, ‘I want to make beautiful paintings. But I don’t make beautiful paintings by putting beautiful paint on a canvas with a beautiful motif. It just doesn’t work. I expect my paintings to be strong and surprising. When I see a painting that knocks me off my feet, I say “How could he do that? How did he dare?” That’s beauty’ (Albert Oehlen, quoted in Alastair Sooke, ‘I want my paintings to like me’, The Telegraph, 1 July 2006, online).

    In the present work, painted in the same year as his acclaimed solo exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, recognisable three-dimensional motifs such as a table and a pillar collide with vibrant, energetic strokes and blocks of paint, while thick impasto obliterates three small portrait heads floating on the upper right of the canvas. The composition is flanked by areas of white paint, condensing the composition at the corners, with a vague landscape suggested by a blue horizon line at the centre of the painting. It is as though the representational objects exist in the background while colourful abstraction takes the foreground, shifting the focus from identifiable subjects to painterly brushstrokes and geometric shapes. As such, Omegasachen-35 is not only a stellar example of the artist’s ability to combine the familiar with the unknown, but is more importantly a celebration of abstraction itself. The saturated rich hues of cerulean blues and fiery reds collide with softer greens and magentas, in a way that recalls Willem de Kooning’s Abstract Expressionism, an artist whom Oehlen has continually cited as a hero. And yet while he pays homage to masters like de Kooning who have inspired him, Albert Oehlen inserts himself in the art historical trajectory by giving painterly abstraction a contemporary voice, as is evidenced in the present work.

  • Artist Biography

    Albert Oehlen

    Albert Oehlen is a German contemporary artist whose work explores the capabilities and failures of painting in the age of postmodernism. His deconstructed artworks reduce painting to a discordant mixture of its constituent elements—color, gesture, motion, and duration—and celebrate the resulting disharmony as an artistic expedition to the frontiers of the abilities of painting. Oehlen began his career in the art scenes of Cologne and Berlin, becoming associated with the Junge Wilde artists who sought to create works that defied classification and disrupted the artistic status quo. He has carried this sense of rebelliousness into his mature career with works that incorporate digital technologies as well as more traditional media. Oehlen’s paintings are marked by inherent, gleeful contradictions, always wielded with a cavalier confidence in the artist’s prowess – his uncooperative fusions of abstraction and figuration, for example, expose the inefficiencies of each art mode and explore the function of painting as much as its meaning.

    Oehlen has attracted critical praise befitting the innovative nature of his work, and he has been the subject of several major exhibitions at institutions such as the Mumok, Vienna and the New Museum, New York. He lives and works between Bühler, Switzerland.

    View More Works



oil on canvas
224 x 225.5 cm (88 1/4 x 88 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2002.

£400,000 - 600,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £465,000

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