Avery Singer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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


    "I see the figuration as being semi-narrative. It’s kind of satirizing nostalgic tropes of how artists conduct their lives and careers."
    —Avery Singer

    Spanning a monumental 10 feet in length, European Ego Ideal is an extraordinary example of Avery Singer’s singular pictorial vernacular that straddles the digital and the painterly, past and present, representation and reality. One of the pioneering artists of her generation, Singer fuses the aesthetics of Cubism, Surrealism, and Constructivism with her cutting-edge sensibility of referencing the digital age, resulting in enigmatic compositions that are at once richly influenced by her artistic predecessors and forward-thinking with futuristic drive. Painted in 2014, the present work belongs to the early pivotal works that launched her career: black-and-white, filmic scenes from the life of an artist, the figures rendered as blocky computer graphic characters. Here, the present work depicts five alluring vignettes of individual figures emerging from a pitch-black background with cinematic theatricality. After featuring in the artist’s acclaimed solo show at the Kunsthalle Zürich from 2014-2015, European Ego Ideal was presented at the 13th Lyon Biennial and subsequently at Singer’s first major institutional exhibition in Europe, Avery Singer: Scenes, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 2016.




    The present work installed at Avery Singer: Scenes, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, April 23 – October 2, 2016. © Avery Singer


    "So when an abstraction becomes convincing, what are we convinced by? I suppose it is the analogy of association that lends its power…"
    —Sven Loven on Avery Singer


    European Ego Ideal showcases the artist’s engagement with Picasso that recurs through this earlier period of her oeuvre, as seen in her The Studio Visit and Performance Artists of 2012, as well as Happening and Director of 2014. Here, she conjures some of the Cubist master’s most famous subjects—his musicians, embodied in the flutist at the top right and guitarist at center, as well as his nudes in the figure at the bottom left. Transforming them into robot-like figures bordering on futurist manga characters and staging them in dramatic light, Singer combines the power of hyperbole and illusionism that engenders the seductive quality of her work. As Sven Loven observes, “We welcome hyperbole as an affront to darkness. Power in hyperbole. Power in histrionics. Power in theater, on a stage where the actors are unreal, but the vision is clear; where the effect is fantastical, but the tableau convincingly lucid. Like a maquette given life, like a step into the uncanny valley, into a world of deceit not yet made wholly deceptive...Through the lies of illusionism, the deceit of simulacra (depth of field, picture-in-picture, soft focus), [Avery’s] images seek to assure us of the validity of our own confusion in the face of cacophony. It is in this assurance that we can find comfort and peace, a ground to stand on. And perhaps this feeling may prove to be the height of seduction.”i




    [left] Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians, 1921. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Pablo Picasso, Three Women, 1907-1908. Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    "The colorless palette gives the flattened surfaces a false patina, a mistaken sense of datedness that diverts attention away from the fact that they are produced using recent modeling software and source from online research. Though her works...are more-or-less traditionally painted onto two-dimensional surfaces to create the illusion of space and depth, they are largely misnomers—paintings that are as sculptural, filmic, architectural, and performative as they are graphic or painterly."
    —Aram Moshayedi


    Teetering between abstraction and figuration, the present work epitomizes Singer’s commitment to 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. The signature use of black and white in her earlier works stems both from her childhood experiences and reinvigorated inspiration. During her youth, her father was a projectionist at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she would frequently join him as he screened black-and-white films in the museum basement. “As a kid I would visit him there on weekends so I would have more time with him. I spent a huge part of my childhood in the basement of MoMA in the projection booth,” the artist recalled. However, it was upon Singer’s visit to Albert Oehlen’s black-and-white Computer Paintings show at Skarstedt, New York as an art student in 2009 that this sensibility materialized in her painterly practice. “I had not been interested in contemporary painting until I saw that show. And I realized, oh, this medium is actually really powerful, if you use it right.”ii




    Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 2004. Private Collection, Artwork: © 2021 Albert Oehlen


    "Art is the subject of this work, but also the strategy: it brings figures inside...to make a scene. This idea of making a scene, in both a compositional and emotional sense, is vital. Avery takes advantage of these interiors to create stages for something deeper and more psychological. This way, a painting of bohemian life is also a picture of a shadow."
    —Carmen Winant


    In European Ego Ideal, Avery presents a masterful orchestration of light and shadow through her well-known technique of using masking tape for the linear highlights and employing rubber to render the curves of the circular outlines. “Avery watched the black and white pictures go by and perhaps more important was imprinted by their large frames, false depth, fragmentary narratives, intentional and often heavy-handed staging, lighting, and blocking. The beam of light—her father’s head—the scenes and the shadows of those scenes onto the wall,” Carmen Winant explained. “The films Avery watched growing up were surrounded above and below by modernist painting and sculpture (her namesake is one such American modern artist). The resulting paintings, however much influenced by the properties of projection in all of its forms, cannot be separated from their own intense, frustrated, and sometimes even masturbatory history. They subject, in both image and title, the rituals that surround and produce art: visual studies, studio classrooms, art patrons, performances, and party scenes appear in various incarnations.iii  With its reference to Picasso and its title, the present work wonderfully encapsulates Singer’s words: “My art practice is like a vacant hotel for all the ghosts of modernism to occupy.”iv





    i Sven Loven, Avery Singer: Pictures Punish Words, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Zürich, 2015, pp. 49, 51.
    ii Avery Singer, quoted in Jason Rosenfeld, “Avery Singer with Jason Rosenfeld,” The Brooklyn Rail, September 2021, online.
    iii Carmen Winant, Avery Singer: Pictures Punish Words, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Zürich, 2015, pp. 56-57, 60.
    iv Avery Singer, quoted in Aram Moshayedi, ibid., p. 55.

    • Provenance

      Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthalle Zürich; Turin, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Avery Singer: Pictures Punish Words, November 22, 2014 – April 12, 2015, p. 10 (illustrated, p. 11)
      Lyon, The 13th Lyon Biennial: La Vie Moderne, September 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016
      Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Avery Singer: Scenes, April 23 – October 2, 2016


European Ego Ideal

acrylic on canvas
100 x 120 in. (254 x 304.8 cm)
Painted in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $4,023,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021