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

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.


  • "Perception is a narrative fiction…Painting has that quality of constantly planting a philosophical investigation into its own status, prompting a continual investigation into what it means to be a subject, to occupy the mythical, scenic, grand position of the subject."
    —Avery Singer

    Teetering between art and technology, absence and presence, reality and perception, Avery Singer’s Untitled is a striking example from her trailblazing practice. By combining computerized and analogue techniques to “creat[e] new possibilities for portraying naturalism,” Singer explores the notion of perception in today’s digital world.i Identified by curator Isabelle Graw as a “self-portrait in disguise,” the present work depicts the shadow of a figure in a vegetal environment, projected against a colorful tiled space.ii Painted in 2018, the present work was exhibited in The Vitalist Economy of Painting at Galerie Neu, Berlin, alongside works by Frank Stella, René Magritte, Christopher Wool, Sarah Morris, and Amy Sillman, among others.


    A New Visual Reality


    Giorgio de Chirico, Plaza (Piazza), 1913. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires

    Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, the cast shadows highlight the work’s illusionistic depth, while calling attention to a haunting absence of their representational source. The dark silhouettes “reference life by way of its negation, [as] representation, conversely, is revealed to be marked by retraction.”iii This dialectal relationship in Untitled encompasses the material and philosophical investigations core to Singer’s practice, reverberating manifold realities of life. In the artist’s words, “Painting is a site onto which we (artists and viewers alike) project and interpret the abstract nature of our own thoughts and experiences within the framework of a cultural outlet. We take the things we see in nature, and reflect upon them, the site of which has now expanded to include virtual reality space.”iv



    Singer’s concern with removing the artist’s hand reflects her broader investigations with the issue of representation and meaning. Blurring the lines between artistic media, the grid at once evokes a shower stall—a theme she has addressed in various works, including a self-portrait made in the same year—and the interior of a digitally modeled cube or digital pixilation. Graw observed of the present work, “As Singer demonstrates, even a rather blurred grid can actually accommodate narrative elements and traces of real life…the mere suggestion that it extends beyond the edges of the picture breaks the frame that seeks to contain it.”v Notably, the structure of a three-dimensional space is rendered purely by the vibrant color blocks themselves, epitomizing Singer’s endeavor to project a Cartesian world onto a two-dimensional canvas.


    Paul Klee, May Picture, 1925. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

    Creation through Obliteration

    "I'm interested in the ways in which artists have removed the hand from painting using technology...Something where there is no start and no understanding of where the artist’s hand was."
    —Avery Singer 

    Throughout her oeuvre, Singer has engaged with the modernist credo of distinguishing art from nature through a contemporary lens by utilizing technology as the mode of intervention. Having developed a unique technical process, she employs three-dimensional modeling software to produce an underdrawing and paints the image onto the canvas with an airbrush. “In painting, we have become used to seeing process, to seeing how paintings are made...being able to tie your own subjective experience of perceiving the first to the last stroke of the brush,” Singer expressed. On the absence of the artist’s hand demonstrated in works such as the present one, she explained,  “I actually want to remove that connection; I think it’s way more interesting that you would not be able to have that relationship to it.”vi


    Albert Oehlen, U.D.O. 11 Inyección de tinta y óleo sobre tela, 2001-2005. Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, Image: Album / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Albert Oehlen

    Untitled also reflects the artist’s broader shift towards color. Departing from the monochromatic palette of her earlier work, which deconstructed the pictorial space to manifest “graphic surfaces that look more dead than alive,” Singer began using color to imbue the painting with its own life.vii She elucidated, “I simply stopped thinking about color, which strangely resulted in my beginning to use it….I like that it was an unconscious decision on my part. You let the painting itself dictate its own direction, instead of pre-planning and executing an idea like a conceptual artist.”viii Denoting the full removal of the artist’s hand, the colors in the present work ultimately reflect art’s self-sufficient power in engaging with its own history: “the grid motif in shades of pink, purple, orange, and blue quotes the emblematic articulation of the modernist ambition to sever painting’s connection to life and obliterate all narrative in visual art.”ix


    Collector's Digest


    • The present work is just one of two paintings that Singer painted with this type of pink palette. The other was exhibited at the groundbreaking group survey, Painting: Now and Forever, Part III, at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York in 2018.


    Avery Singer, Untitled, 2018
    Avery Singer, Untitled, 2018

    i Avery Singer, quoted in “Digital Reflex: Avery Singer and Ed Atkins Respond to Texte zur Kunst,” Texte zur Kunst, issue no. 95, September 2014.
    ii Isabelle Graw, trans. Gerrit Jackson, The Vitalist Economy of Painting, exh. cat., Galerie Neu, Berlin, 2018, p. 30.
    iii Ibid.
    iv Avery Singer, quoted in “Digital Reflex: Avery Singer and Ed Atkins Respond to Texte zur Kunst,” Texte zur Kunst, issue no. 95, September 2014.
    v Isabelle Graw, trans. Gerrit Jackson, The Vitalist Economy of Painting, exh. cat., Galerie Neu, Berlin, 2018, p. 30.
    vi Avery Singer, quoted in Orit Gat, “Venice Biennale artist, Avery Singer talks processes, robots, and post-human painting,” Art Basel Stories, 2019, online.
    vii Isabelle Graw, trans. Steven Lindberg, “Openings: Avery Singer,” Artforum, November 2014, online.
    viii Avery Singer, quoted in Nicolas Trembley, “Interview with Avery Singer, the youngest painter to be represented by Hauser & Wirth,” Numéro, April 17, 2020, online.
    ix Isabelle Graw, trans. Gerrit Jackson, The Vitalist Economy of Painting, exh. cat., Galerie Neu, Berlin, 2018, p. 30.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Neu, Berlin
      Private Collection, Germany
      Private Collection, New York

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, Galerie Neu, The Vitalist Economy of Painting, September 15 - November 7, 2018, p. 30 (illustrated, p. 31)

    • Literature

      Franklin Melendez, "Compositional Machines: Seeking an endgame or a new beginning, Avery Singer explores what it means to dream of painting without the hand," Flash Art, May 25, 2020, online (illustrated)



signed and dated "Avery Singer 2018" on the overlap
acrylic on canvas stretched over wood panel
85 1/8 x 95 in. (216.2 x 241.3 cm)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $4,144,000

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