Anastasia Bay - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Marking the artist’s debut at international auction, Boxer explores French painter Anastasia Bay’s fascination with human bodies in movement and combat sports. Executed in 2020, Boxer depicts two nude figures, whose only clothing accessories are pairs of socks and boxing gloves, in the act of sparring. Their poses suggest the intensity and shifting balance of the power dynamics at play, and reveal distinct traits of their personalities despite the lack of other identifying physical features or garments. The neutrality of the light-blue background encourages viewers to fully focus on the dialogue between the two bodies in action.


    Standing at two metres high, Boxer is a larger-than-life painting that engulfs its viewer. Due to its deliberately bifurcated visual plane we are forced to view the pair of boxers as two halves of the same whole, who come together in the shape of infinity. In the pointed placement of the corner of the boxing ring at the centre of the painting, and with the physical near-mirroring of the titular characters, the two parties seem almost separated, as if presented in a diptych format rather than on one whole canvas.


    An apt metaphor for power dynamics, the physicality of this rivalry, or at least dichotomy of characters, serves as a potent space to investigate feminist notions of gender politics, women’s rights, and the struggles of an inner psyche—it is thus not difficult to imagine the inner struggles of a young female artist captured within this work. Sculptural in quality and stature, Boxer is reminiscent of the latent pressures felt in pieces such as Maillol’s sculpture series of female wrestlers, and is an apt painterly rendering of various contraries held in tension.


    Aristide Maillol, Women Wrestlers, 1900.
    Image: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

    “Through my own training in boxing, I’ve observed a kinship between that sport and the arts –at least in my own practice. In the end, both are ways of learning by repeating sequences and movements in order to create natural gestural reflexes.”
    — Anastasia Bay

    Bay’s painting process emulates the steps of the athletic training that precedes a competition: it begins with drawings systematically perfected and refined until they reach harmony and symmetry, and only when the desired equilibrium has been attained does she move onto painting. This continues throughout the painting process as she steps in and out of confrontation with her canvas, like a boxer reassessing her next move. Moreover, both painting and boxing share some voyeuristic elements, for the paralleled ways in which scenes are conjured for a viewing audience, less vulnerable than the subjects than that of the subjects directly involved in a staged situation.


    The Boxers Fresco, 16th Century BC, Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini)
    National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Athens


    The interest in human bodies and physical training can evoke a comparison between Bay’s work and the numerous depictions of athletes which are found in Minoan, Hellenistic or Roman frescoes as well as in classical vase paintings. The beauty and vitality of naked –or partially naked– human figures in movement, who at once express a sense of dedication, strength, suppleness and tension, are beautifully encapsulated by Bay’s paintings and her contemporary take on physical fitness and the visual representations of martial arts.  



    Giorgio de Chirico, Hector and Andromache (1917),
    National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art — GNAM, Rome
    Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome


    The composition of Boxer is also fruitfully comparable to Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical painting Hector and Andromache (1917), visually alike in the way in which the two bodies are positioned frontally towards one another, the legs of each subject wide open, with the left leg of one figure touching the right leg of the other. In both paintings, this pose seems to suggest the intimacy that characterises the subjects’ interaction, which in the case of Hector and Andromache is due to a romantic connection, and in that of the boxers’ to their relationship as sport partners and competitors. The references to classical culture—to which de Chirico pays a more explicit homage through the staging of a scene from the Greek mythological tradition—are revealed by the focus that the two artists place on the depiction of corporeal movements.  


    Bay, who is currently based in Brussels, Belgium, studied fine art in Paris under François Boisrond at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Her recent solo exhibitions include “Le réveil des Cariatides” at Galerie Derouillon, Paris (5 May – 11 June 2022) and “Anastasia Bay + Jordy Kerwick” at Anna Zorina Gallery, New York (13 January – 19 February 2022). Her paintings are also displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami (USA) and at the X Museum in Beijing (China).



    • Provenance

      NBB Gallery, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated ‘Anastasia Bay 2020’ on the reverse
acrylic and oil on canvas
200 x 160 cm. (78 3/4 x 62 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

HK$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for HK$567,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022