Barry Flanagan RA - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Waddington Galleries, London

  • Exhibited

    London, Waddington Galleries and The Economist Plaza, Barry Flanagan, 7 September 1998 - 17 October 1998 (Another example from the edition exhibited)
    New York, The Pace Gallery, Barry Flanagan, 14 September 1990 - 13 October 1990 (Another example from the edition exhibited)
    Paris, Galerie Durand-Dessert, Barry Flanagan, 1992 (Another example from the edition exhibited)
    Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, Barry Flanagan, 16 February 1995 - 12 March 1995 (Another example from the edition exhibited)
    Mote i Nord Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 1989
    London, Waddington Galleries, Twentieth Century Works, 26 April 1989 - 20 May 1989 (Another example from the edition exhibited)
    London, Waddington Galleries, Works on paper and sculpture, 8 September 1993 - 2 October 1993 (Another example from the edition exhibited)

  • Literature

    exh. cat., Barry Flanagan, Waddington Galleries, London, 1990; 25 (illustrated)
    exh. cat., Barry Flanagan, Pace Gallery, New York, 1990; 5 (illustrated)
    Juncosa, Enrique (ed.); Gooding, Mel and Bruce Arnold, Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006; 101 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    'One merely causes things to reveal themselves to the sculptural awareness. It is the awareness that develops, not the agents of the sculptural phenomena.'

    - BARRY FLANAGAN, 1967

    Barry Flanagan’s hares are amongst the best-loved figures of twentieth century sculpture. Anthropomorphic yet alien, engaging yet puzzling, they offer a mirthful riposte to the straight-laced seriousness often found in bronze form, while posing a thoughtful dialogue with traditions of symbol and expression.

    Born in Prestatyn, North Wales, in 1941, Flanagan self-identified as an ‘English-speaking itinerant artist,’ rejecting the limits of nationality in typical subversive fashion. His art continues to similarly confound any easy categorisation. Flanagan's formative artistic encounter came in the 1970s: ‘I did see a hare and was most impressed by its gait. I was travelling from Sussex to Cornwall and this hare was running just beyond the hedge … and there were three figures, one of which was a dog, coming over the brow of the South Downs, and they were literally walking a Labrador, but the hare was there and was coursing along, and rather leaping, so that was it, a hare, a leaping hare.’ (Barry Flanagan interviewed by Melvyn Bragg, The South Bank Show, LWT, 23/01/1983, quoted in J. Melvin, Barry Flanagan, 2010, p.11).

    The exuberance of this ‘leaping hare’ has informed nearly all of Flanagan’s work since, and clearly reflects an important ludic aspect of the artist’s own personality. The hare was no random choice: Flanagan also points to its great power as a channel of humanistic expression. ‘Thematically the choice of the hare is really quite a rich and expressive sort of mode; the conventions of the cartoon and the investment of human attributes into the animal world is a very well practised device, in literature and film etc., and is really quite poignant, and on a practical level, if you consider what conveys situation and meaning and feeling in a human figure, the range of expression is in fact far more limited than the device of investing an animal – a hare especially – with the expressive attributes of a human being. The ears, for instance, are really able to convey far more than a squint in an eye of a figure, or a grimace on the face of a model.’ (Barry Flanagan in Ray Merritt (ed.), Shared Spaces: The Joseph M. Cohen Collection, NY and Bologna: Cygnet Foundation, p.42).

    While many observers point to a Celtic minimalist inheritance in Flanagan's rejection of the ornate and overwrought in favour of symbolic weight, it is the movement and uproarious vivacity of the hare that is its most crucial aspect. As Paul Levy writes, ‘For the existentialist action makes us free, and nothing is more free, vital, spontaneous and alive – from Aesop’s hare outrun by the tortoise to Bugs Bunny – than a capering hare. In France and most of Central Europe, it is the hare that lays eggs at Easter and so promises renewal. In fact, Flanagan’s hares do not carry much of this historic symbolic freight; they simply frolic freely and expressively. They don’t symbolise life, they live it.’ (Paul Levy, ‘Joy of Sculpture,’ in Barry Flanagan: Linear Sculptures in Bronze and Stone Carvings, exh. cat. Waddington Galleries, 2004).

    Flanagan was greatly influenced by the ideology of ’Pataphysics, a movement invented by the French absurdist Alfred Jarry (1873–1907). Jarry called this system a ‘science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.’ ’Pataphysics, with its basis in paradox, pun, absurdity and circularity, shaped many important twentieth century movements including Dada and Surrealism. Freed from the duty to find a ‘solution’ in any traditional sense, Flanagan’s work is able to play, to course the realms of the ludicrous and the joyfully anarchic, and takes reflexive joy in its own creation.

    The present lot is a glorious example of Flanagan at his jubilant best. Appropriately for such a totemic muse, the hare surmounts a pyramid: the sculpture is monumental, even imposing in impact. Yet there is no pomposity here. The fluid energy of the hare attests to Flanagan’s total faith in its expressive potential as it swims through the air, making a mockery of material and figurative weightiness. The cast form is pushed to gleeful extremes of dynamism and delicacy that recall the work of the preeminent modern master of bronze, Alberto Giacometti; the pyramid itself is a stretched and attenuated pedestal, tapering narrowly in what looks like aspiration for the freedom of its companion. Echoes of shamanism and ritual jostle with mischief and pure joie de vivre, resulting in a magical work of art.


Hare on Pyramid

205 x 189 x 46.5 cm (80 3/4 x 74 3/8 x 18 1/4 in.)
Stamped with the artist's monogram, makers mark and numbered '1/7' on the base. This work is number 1 from an edition of 7 plus 3 artist's casts.

£400,000 - 600,000 ‡♠

Sold for £482,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm