Bruno V. Roels - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “Using the name of a thing invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it. For me, palm trees evoke history, exotic locations, luxury, freedom, and an Indiana Jones-like mystery. But there’s also a certain sense of post-colonial shame, and often palm trees bear testimony to distinct gaps between rich and poor. I may claim that palm trees are palm trees but there are enormous semantic differences between a palm tree in Switzerland and one in North Africa.”
    —Bruno V. Roels

    This unique work comes from Bruno V. Roels’s series A Palm Tree Is A Palm Tree Is A Palm Tree, whose title is a riff on Gertrude Stein’s 1913 poem Sacred Emily in which she writes ‘a rose is a rose is a rose.’ The work offered here, On/Off, is meditation on sameness and difference and the way in which photography renders these binary values.  Roels observes that ‘every palm tree is alike, and looks the same no matter what its location. Each is different, though, as each is shaped by the events of its location.’


    For the Palm Tree series, Roels works exclusively with analogue equipment, and each image in this assemblage is an individual gelatin silver print, painstakingly sequenced and mounted with its fellows. The work offered here is a tour-de-force that demonstrates Roels’s talent for infusing a compelling concept into a visually dynamic composition.

    • Provenance

      Gallery 51, Antwerp
      Private European Collection


A Palm Tree Is A Palm Tree Is A Palm Tree (On/Off)

Unique work, comprising 100 hundred gelatin silver prints, mounted to board.
34 1/4 x 23 1/2 in. (87 x 59.7 cm)
Overall 41 1/2 x 29 in. (105.4 x 73.7 cm)

Signed, titled, and dated in pencil on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023