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  • Overview

    '[Allen Jones] continues to posit the polarities of gender, exposing the contemporary masquerade of women as objects, women as bodies, women as auras, in contradistinction to that of men, creating artworks that compel their audience to question their own gendered presence. And for Jones, difference is to be celebrated.'
    —Natalie Ferris

    Hermaphrodite, 1963
    Allen Jones, Hermaphrodite, 1963, oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
    © Allen Jones. Image: Bridgeman images.

    Since the early 1960s, Allen Jones has been a central figure of the British Pop art movement. The radical nature of his work became more distinct after he briefly relocated to New York City in 1964. There, Jones began exploring erotic motifs, which he had only discreetly alluded to in previous works such as Hermaphrodite, 1963, which captures a man and a woman’s tender embrace as they morph into a single being. Discovering that risqué imagery was more prevalent in American advertising and magazines than in his native Britain, Jones began developing an overtly sexualised visual language that questioned the conventional ideologies of his time.

     

    Image: Tate, London.
    Allen Jones, Wet Seal, 1966, oil paint on canvas, wood and melamine, Tate Collection, London. © Allen Jones. Image: Tate, London.

    On the artist’s first visit to Los Angeles, Jones discovered the mail order catalogue, Frederick’s of Hollywood. ‘Fatal Footstep’, ‘T-riffic’, ‘Wet Seal’, ‘Drama’, ‘Sheer Magic’, ‘Gallery Gasper’, and ‘Evening Incandescent’ were some of the alluring shoe descriptions used in Frederick’s advertising to tempt female audiences with their range of sexually infused footwear; these shoe titles subsequently became the titles of Jones’s shoe paintings. ‘The “high street glamour” and cluttered layout of each page worked against the illusionism of the drawings’ Jones told Phillips in 2018, ‘making the sexiness of the products acceptable in the sunny suburbias of America’. Both ambiguous and instantly recognisable, the depiction of the female leg is an iconic and recurring theme throughout Jones’ work, from his eponymous series of the 1960s to more recent works. This immediacy, which provided Jones with great clarity, can also be seen in Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes.

     

    Image: Alamy.
    Frederick's of Hollywood Catalogue, circa 1960s.
    Image: Alamy.

    Kunstmarkt Köln 1967

     

    In the aftermath of World War II, at a time when a number of artistic figures were keen to see Germany’s re-emergence, the young art dealer Hans Neuendorf saw an opportunity to begin selling British and American Pop art to German collectors. With the help of Ileana Sonnabend, Neuendorf staged Germany’s first Pop exhibition and began selling works by Allen Jones, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Robert Rauschenberg amongst many others. After opening outposts in Hamburg and Cologne, Neuendorf began seeing success specifically with the English Pop artists.


    Born out of necessity and with the help of Neuendorf, Cologne-based gallerists Rudolf Zwirner and Hein Stünke, launched Kunstmarkt Köln in 1967, with the hopes of promoting contemporary art and establishing a German art centre. At this landmark event, Project for Fifteen Foot Woman was acquired by the present owner directly from Neuendorf.

     

    Image: Galerie Neuendorf
    The first edition of Art Cologne, in 1967. Photo courtesy of Hans Neuendorf.
    Image: Galerie Neuendorf

    Larger than Life

     

    In 1966, Jones returned to London from New York and immediately commenced a new series of paintings using shelves as a way of reinventing the objective nature of the canvas. ‘Despite the spirited response of Pop art during the 1960s, a central tenet of abstraction held sway, the importance of the brushwork and the canvas itself’ said Jones ‘and I became interested in exploring this dichotomy between pictorial illusion and pictorial fact.’ (Allen Jones, in conversation with Phillips, September 2020).

     

    Another device to use was the Surrealist idea of the Exquisite Corpse, where an unexpected result could be achieved by making an image in separate sections. Using this concept, Jones painted Perfect Match, 1966, a nine-foot woman, stretched across three canvases. The artist continues exploring these ideas in the present lot, where line and colour are vying for the viewer’s attention. ‘In Project for Fifteen Foot Woman, I continued enlarging the lower leg section so that the stylised high heels become more of a special graphic arabesque than just a shoe, vying for attention with the painted surface alongside, rather than in-depth,’ Jones recalled, ‘more a fact than an illusion, in this case most of the fifteen-foot woman is outside the canvas and left to the viewer’s imagination’ (Allen Jones, in conversation with Phillips, September 2020).

     

    In Conversation with Allen Jones

     

    Allen Jones by Jorge Lewinski, 1960’s.
    Allen Jones by Jorge Lewinski, 1960’s,
    © The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth / Bridgeman Images.

    Judith Lamb: Mr. Jones, to this day you are one of the most important British Pop artists and your work continues to be celebrated by many. Examples of your work are housed in museum collections around the world, and exhibitions of your work are continuously held in your honour.  In 2015, London’s Royal Academy of Art organised a retrospective of your work, and Almine Rech in Paris, and most recently here in London have exhibited new paintings and sculptures.

     

    Thank you for visiting Phillips today to talk about your seminal painting Project for Fifteen Foot Woman ahead of its sale on 20th October.

     

    Project for Fifteen Foot Woman was painted here in London in 1967, shortly after your return from the United States. In the other paintings from your now iconic leg series, you introduced a third dimension by adding a shelf or steps to the painting. Project for Fifteen Foot Woman appears to be a return to two-dimensional painting. Can you put this work into context, and tell us how it relates to the other paintings in this series?

     

    Allen Jones: American Painting was about the flat surface; in formal terms a Lichtenstein is as flat as an Ellsworth Kelly. To counter the illusionistic depth implied in my pictures, I fixed shelves or steps to them. Another way of addressing this issue was to make a picture using several canvases. I joined three together to make a nine-foot-high figure called Perfect Match.

     

    With this picture, Project for Fifteen Foot Woman, I got carried away with the scale before realising it would make a fifteen-foot figure that I would not have been able to fit into my studio, so she remained a ‘project’.

     

    Allen Jones, Perfect Match, 1966-97
    Allen Jones, Perfect Match, 1966-97, oil on canvas, Museum Ludwig, Cologne. 
    © Allen Jones. Image: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln.

    JL: Can you tell us about the Arthur Tooth exhibition and your relationship with Tooth?

     

    AJ: Peter Cochrane, a Director at Tooth’s Gallery, saw my work in a student exhibition – the Young Contemporaries 1961. It was after my first year at the Royal College of Art. He brought the collector E. J. Power to see me and offered me a four-year exclusive contract. Tooth represented Stanley Spencer and Matthew Smith, but Peter was more interested in the avant-garde and signed up R. B. Kitaj before the latter was approached by Marlborough Gallery.

     

    Peter was one of the first people in the U.K. to buy American Pop Art and was an eccentric and avid collector. I remember along with Peter Phillips and Peter Blake, sitting around Cochran’s table in St. Johns Wood, reminiscent of the Headmaster’s study, looking at black and white photographs of his recent purchases in New York. Lichtenstein’s pedal can diptych, Jim Dine’s large black-tie painting and a dish of Oldenburgh cookies. It was all very new and all very exciting.

     

    JL: I understand you have a funny story about the catalogue, which was produced unbound for the exhibition.

     

    AJ: Peter’s spirit for innovation stopped short of the catalogue I designed with John McConnell, who would later become a Pentagram Partner. Rather than stapled pages, it was a loose-leaf folder that would allow the recipient to pin favourite image to the wall or stick them in a book. The cover contained a transfer—a decal of a leg in a spiral that could be affixed to a car windshield or perhaps the refrigerator. Peter held it with distain, allowing the loose leaves to fall upon the ground. He tut-tutted and said no more. To meet the printer’s deadline, Project for Fifteen Foot Woman was photographed unfinished and exhibited in its current state. 

     

    The present work photographed in an unfinished state, illustrated in the catalogue published on the occasion of the Allen Jones 27 June – 15 July 1967 at Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London.
    The present work photographed in an unfinished state, illustrated in the catalogue published on the occasion of the Allen Jones 27 June – 15 July 1967 at Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London.
    Image: © Allen Jones.

    JL: In the 1970s and 1980s, there seems to be a return to creating works that are distinctly paintings and distinctly sculptures including very large outdoor works. What was the most challenging project you undertook?

     

    AJ: My sixty-foot sculpture of an acrobat spanning three floors within the atrium of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital was commissioned when the new building was completed. The sculpture arrived on the site in several sections, each over twenty foot long. It required the help of several passers-by to rock each of the heavy curved steel limbs from each end in order to pass them through the brand-new revolving doors of the hospital facade.

     

    JL: In addition to painter and sculptor, you are also a renowned printmaker and have taught lithography at universities. Do you have an equal love for the mediums? Or is there a favourite?

     

    AJ: Not in particular but as a student interested in learning about colour, I chose lithography as my second subject. The chemical process is so time consuming that it was an incentive to use as few colour printings as possible to achieve maximum effect. My teacher Alin Braund at Hornsey always said that if you can’t finish a print with up to five colours, then paint it.

     

    From the Archives

     

     

    • Provenance

      Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., London
      Galerie Hans Neuendorf, Hamburg
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1967

    • Exhibited

      London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Allen Jones, 27 June - 15 July 1967, no. 14, sheet 1 (illustrated, sheet 6)

Property of a Private European Collector

20

Project for Fifteen Foot Women

signed, titled and dated 'Allen Jones Project for Fifteen Foot Woman 1967' on the stretcher
oil and graphite on canvas
91.5 x 91.5 cm (36 x 36 in.)
Executed in 1967.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £189,000

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020