Amy Sillman - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "I wanted to see if I could try to blurt something out, or make something completely immediate, that ends up fitting perfectly."
    —Amy Sillman

    Painted in 2005, Amy Sillman’s Flower Giver is a large-scale abstraction that showcases her signature mode of painting, combining thick impasto clusters with sweeping gestural strokes in a pastel palette gone rogue. Amidst the dark streaks that slash across abstract forms, dainty flowers of bright pigment emerge at the right of the composition, weaving an optical tapestry of color and form.


    [left] Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #23, 1955. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Artwork: © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation [right] Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten (Blumengarten), 1907. Private Collection

    "Color as object is earthly material stuff. Color as subject arches over everything like a rainbow, from cosmic rays to the minerals in the earth to what happens inside your eyes, from religious symbology to philosophical problems, from phenomena to noumena..."
    —Amy Sillman 

    The heart of Sillman’s practice lies in the role of color. Often preferring jarring combinations that produce aesthetic tension, the artist employs color as the genre to survey the range of expressive possibilities in painting. For Sillman, color becomes the foreground as “her thick and intense layering of color balances spontaneity with struggle, intense form with loose improvisation, and childlike imagery with loaded psychological implications.”i In the artist’s own words, "I am more interested in color as an engine of ongoing change and metamorphosis than as a static theory....Color is a primary tool for negation in my work—colors that block each other out or contradict each other, and are mixed in an archeologico-dialectic of continual deconstruction and reconstruction."ii



    Likened to the work of Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, and Philip Guston, Sillman’s paintings hover at the precipice of figuration and abstraction. The present work exemplifies how the artist “explores gesture and movement in the context of an ‘irrational landscape’, a space that may not make spatial sense but is defined by stacking, cutaways, and multi-tiered horizons.”iii As Max Henry observes, “Like a DJ sampling, she is cross-referencing as if she was a postmodern Fauve. Cézanne, Chagall, late Guston and Carroll Dunham are distilled in a lyrical remix hinting at landscapes and interiors derived from instant memory.”iv


    Offering a refuge of known realities in the abyss of brazen abstraction, the flowers in the present work belie their naïve and terse appearance by “bear[ing] a concentrated psychological intensity that counterbalances the powerful abstract fields surrounding them.”v While flowers are a frequent motif in the artist’s oeuvre, Flower Giver signals a particular devotion to them as a subject per its title. Prefiguring her recent series of flower still lifes exhibited at the Gladstone Gallery in her 2020 solo show Twice Removed, “the flowers,” Hilton Als reveals, “are the visual manifestation of her blooming mind.”vi


    Sillman’s recent flower still lifes installed at Amy Sillman: Twice Removed, Gladstone Gallery, New York, September 30 – November 14, 2020


    Collector’s Digest


    Concurrent Institutional Show:


    St. Louis, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Amy Sillman: After Metamorphoses, January 25 – July 30, 2021


    • Since the first major institutional survey of Sillman’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2013-2014, the artist has received critical acclaim and international recognition for her bold abstract paintings and has had institutional solo shows in Berlin, London, and Amsterdam.


    • Among the artist’s top 3 records achieved within the last 5 years, Phillips holds the current world record for Sillman, set in December 2018 in New York when U reached over twice its high estimate at $855,000.


    i “Amy Sillman: The Other One, April 2 – May 7, 2005” Vielmetter Los Angeles, press release, online.
    ii Amy Sillman, quoted in Isabelle Graw and Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, eds., Painting Beyond Itself: The Medium in the Postmedium Condition, New York, 2016, p. 115.
    iii “Amy Sillman: The Other One, April 2 – May 7, 2005” Vielmetter Los Angeles, press release, online.
    iv Max Henry, “The New Atlantis: Abstract America,” in Abstract America, exh. cat., Saatchi Gallery, London, 2008, p. 8.
    v “Amy Sillman: The Other One, April 2 – May 7, 2005” Vielmetter Los Angeles, press release, online.
    vi Hilton Als, “Goings On About Town: Amy SIllman” The New Yorker, October 2020.

    • Provenance

      Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Amy Sillman: The Other One, April 2 – May 7, 2005

Property from an Important Private Collection, Florida


Flower Giver

oil on canvas
84 x 72 in. (213.4 x 182.9 cm)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $598,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021