André Butzer - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • With a unique visual language that vacillates between abstraction and figuration, André Butzer's oeuvre presents a kaleidoscopic fusion of colour, form, and emotion, pushing the boundaries of traditional painting techniques to redefine the limits of artistic representation.

    “Every image is an abstraction. No matter what’s on it.”
    — André Butzer 


    Butzer's refusal to comply in a world of compromise has defined his unique artistic practice for the past three decades. Combining European expressionism with American popular culture, his influences range from Henri Matisse to Walt Disney, Friedrich Hölderlin to Henry Ford, taking from each as he creates artworks that reflect his devotion to both his surroundings and his imagination.
    Butzer's complex visual language is what he has termed 'Science-Fiction Expressionism'. This style is reflected in his creation of the imaginary world of NASAHEIM, a space colony inhabited by the 'Piece-Siemens'. Translating as ‘home’ in German, ‘Heim’ allowed Butzer to conceptualise NASAHEIM as a spatial reality: ‘Like the next frontier […] like saying there’s a home where NASA is’i. This non-place embodies the essence of proximity and distance and is a dimensionless locality without a physical place. Butzer's figures in NASAHEIM transcend the limits of acting as staffage in his pools of pigment, becoming icons of the future that occupy the liminal spaces between utopianism and mass consumerism. Rendered in a child-like abstraction, his creatures embody the idea of a future image of man and flesh that is prevalent in everyday culture.



     André Butzer discusses his practice in a film by Rudij Bergmann, with the present painting featured in the artist's studio


    “Titian said painting is about flesh and water, and I say it is about flesh and lemonade.”
    — André Butzer


    Through his planet weaving, Butzer creates a universe that is both familiar and alien. The 'Piece-Siemens' are depicted in a childlike abstraction, with tonal modelling and joyous palette that evoke a sense of playfulness and whimsy. Yet at the same time, these creatures are depicted in an ambigious context, hinting at the darker undercurrents of our own society.


    “I just follow the roads of pictorial power.”
    — André Butzer 


    Painted in 2018, Untitled is one of Butzer’s rare works – a single portrait. One normally sees a jostle of comic-cum-grotesque characters that indulge through the canvas, a procession that lends his compositions a busy quality: the gluttony of form. In the present painting, the artist breaks from this traffic to present a lone figure suspended against a backdrop of maroon and mauve that bleed into one another, with more nuances of colour revealing themselves upon an extended viewing. Otherworldly yet familiar, they bear distinct resemblance to the flattened caricatures of Jean Dubuffet. Friction burns then soothes into the warmer tones of the figure’s dress, though their happy countenance betrays something more insidious – a kind of distant violence that teems beneath Butzer’s thick swathes of innocent pigment.




    Jean Dubuffet, L'homme à la toque, 1956
    Sold for US$2,571,000 at Phillips New York, 23 June 2021

    Artwork: © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



    As described in the exhibition catalogue for his 2003 show, Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, at Galerie Max Heltzer: ‘André Butzer's figures always stay in a strange abeyance: at first glance grotesque heads, waving hands and clumsy feet can be taken as signs of unconcern but then the harmed and deformed creatures cause a feeling similar to compassion. The question is: what kind of life do these beings have? Are they human beings or mythical creatures and to what extend should we take their mental expressions seriously? The reference to comic may give us a hint for the answer. André Butzer believes in the influence of Walt Disney's figures on our image of human beings, nativity as well as artificiality are parts of this. The world of Mickey Mouse knows no moral, real pain nor real joy.’ iv

    The Disney universe offers a counter-intuitive point from which to launch our investigation into what exactly makes Untitled so arcane. Believing that these cartoons, their depictions of inter-personal relationships and violence have had a profound effect on shifting attitudes our conception of the human and humanity, Butzer magnifies the distinctively Disney characteristics like as expansive eyes, gloved appendages, and disproportionately large heads through his refined colour scheme of acrid yellows, blues, and reds, ultimately launching a trenchant critique of commodity aesthetics.
    In this context, Butzer's creations can be assessed in parallel with the oeuvre of American artist KAWS, whose emblematic monochromatic Companion figure (such as Lot 317 - KAWS - COMPANIONsubverts Mickey Mouse's iconography as a means of scrutinising the psychological underpinnings of contemporary consumer culture, blurring the boundaries between high and low art while simultaneously demonstrating the capacity to transform art into a spectacle designed for mass consumption.



    The Simpsons, 'Itchy & Scratchy Show'

    Echoing the manner in which The Simpsons' writers lampooned the brutality of Tom and Jerry cartoons through their invention of the ultra-violent Itchy and Scratchy animated series as an ironic meta-commentary on animation, entertainment, and the concept of ethical responsibility, Butzer's NASAHEIM abstains from offering a didactic discourse on the dichotomy of good and evil. Instead, it crafts a realm that engages in a dialogue with our reality, amalgamating antithetical aspects of life and death, terror and allure, optimism and despondency in order to render visible the otherwise ineffable facets of existence.



    Detail of the present work



    Collector’s Digest


    • Testament to his growing eminence in both the commercial and institutional spheres of the art world, Taschen released a comprehensive study into Butzer’s work this summer.
    • Butzer has been the subject of solo shows at major institutions including the Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover; Kunsthalle Nuremberg; and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai. His work forms part of the collections of Carré d’art, Nîmes; the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; MONA, Tasmania; the Rubell Family, Miami; MOCA, Los Angeles; and the Marciano Collection, Los Angeles, amongst others.
    • Butzer’s work is held in various leading, internationally recognised collections, including: Scharpff Collection; Taschen Collection; Goetz Collection; Rubell Collection; Fondazione Prada; and Colección Lázaro. 
    • Demonstrative of the current strength of the artist's market, Butzer's top result at auction was recently achieved in October 2021 by Phillips London with the sale of Chips und Pepsi und Medizin (Das Glück). The work achieved an impressive 403,200 GBP Premium (554,684 USD)




    i André Butzer in interview with Michael Slenske, ‘Expressionism, Now with Added Black’, Vice, 9 November 2017, online
    ii ibid.
    iii André Butzer, quoted in Hans Werner Holzwarth, ‘André Butzer: Paints from 1999 to 2021’, Taschen Magazine, Summer 2022, online
    iv Thomas Groetz, André Butzer, Chips und Pepsi und Medizin, exh. cat., Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2003, p. 7


    • Provenance

      Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Hans Werner Halzwarth, André Butzer, Cologne, 2021, p. 326 (illustrated, p. 327)




signed and dated 'A. Butzer '18 '18' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
270.2 x 170 cm. (106 3/8 x 66 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$700,000 - 900,000 

Sold for HK$889,000

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Mid-Season Sales
+852 2318 2014

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+852 2318 2001

Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023