Baldur Helgason - Modern & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, June 1, 2024 | Phillips
  • “The paintings are filled with references to paintings and philosophy. The comic book character is a superficial front of what the paintings are trying to explore. It’s my way of having a dialogue or involving the Old Masters and art history, and he gives me the opportunity to work with different styles and art movements.”
    — Baldur Helgason


    Imbued with a sense of playfulness and nostalgia, A Dionysian Painting is an instantly recognisable work by the contemporary Icelandic artist Baldur Helgason. Characterised by his expressionistic visual aesthetic, Helgason’s works often challenge and subvert the human form through his comically rendered figures with enlarged hands and feet, exaggerated limbs, and perpetual smiles.


    A particularly vibrant painting by the artist, the present work is charged with historical references, recalling Michaelangelo’s The Bacchus, which features the Greek god of wine, also known as Dionysus. Seen as a depiction of Helgason’s own alter-ego, the reclining figure in A Dionysian Painting holds a lit cigarette in one hand and a large carafe of red wine in the other, whilst being fed a cluster of grapes by a third-party individual. As grapes have historically and mythologically been associated as a symbol of prosperity and opulence, the present work evokes a sense of indulgence, pleasure and celebration as part of Dionysian rituals and brilliantly captures the artist’s sardonic commentaries on modern society.


    As showcased in Helgason’s other portraits, the character in the present work is donned in his signature Breton shirt. The artist explains the concept behind this choice of clothing: “I started wearing [the Breton shirt] when I was in art school in Iceland to look Bohemian. I read once that Andy Warhol wore striped shirts because Picasso wore striped shirts, so that’s what artists do. I like how the simplicity of a modest garment signifies you’re an artist. People make fun of the fact that I wear them all the time. So when I started playing around with this alter-ego/self-portrait figure, that had to be part of it.”i


    A Dionysian Painting was presented in Helgason’s solo exhibition Spiritual Paintings For Emotional People at Richard Heller Gallery in 2020. Having received his BFA from Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2008 and his MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2011, the artist has held numerous exhibitions internationally at Ojiri Gallery, London; WOAW Gallery, Hong Kong; and Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica. He has also been honoured with group shows at Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik; König Galerie, Berlin; and Galerie Zink, Waldkirchen.



    Caravaggio, The Bacchus, c. 1596, Uffizi Gallery
    Image: Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo



    i Baldur Helgason, quoted in Joey Garfield, ‘Baldur Helgason: ICELAND COMETH’, Juxtapoz Magazineonline

    • Provenance

      Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Santa Monica, Richard Heller Gallery, Spiritual Paintings for Emotional People, 4 April - 9 May 2020


A Dionysian Painting

signed 'Baldur' lower right
oil on canvas
121.9 x 152.4 cm. (48 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

HK$150,000 - 350,000 

Sold for HK$190,500

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2014

Modern & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 1 June 2024