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

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  • "Things in their elements, not in their relations."
    —Carl Andre, 1967

    Epitomizing Carl Andre’s unwavering engagement with minimalist principles, 36 Copper Square, 1968, is an outstanding example of his most recognizable work. A paradigm in Minimalist art, the artist’s modular floor sculptures challenged the tradition of sculpture itself by defying notions on matter and space. One of his very first floor pieces of 6-by-6 squares that culminated in his historic installation, 37th Piece of Work, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1970, 36 Copper Square marks one of Andre’s largest floor pieces after the disaggregation of the Guggenheim installation. Composed of thirty-six square copper plates that are unfixed and arranged to form a larger, unified square on the ground, the present sculpture featured in the groundbreaking exhibition, When Attitudes Become Form, at the Kunsthalle Bern and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1969. A testament to its era-defining stature, 36 Copper Square participated in the “constitutive historical event in 20th-century art history [that] presented new trends in contemporary art, which were later identified as post-minimalism, Arte Povera, land art, and conceptual art,” and later featured in the Fondazione Prada’s landmark tribute to the Bern exhibition in 2013.i


    The present work installed at When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1968

    The Fall of Sculpture

    "My ambition as an artist is to be the Turner of matter. As Turner severed color from depiction, I attempt to sever matter from depiction."
    —Carl Andre

    Along with Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Dan Flavin, Andre is credited with changing the history of sculpture by defining the visual language of American Minimalism. Departing from his earlier carved wood sculptures inspired by Constantin Brancusi and the ideas of his close friend Frank Stella, Andre began collapsing the verticality of sculpture in works like Lever, 1966. “All I’m doing,” Andre noted, “is putting Brancusi’s Endless Column on the ground instead of in the sky. Most sculpture is priapic with the male organ in the air. In my work, Priapus is down on the floor. The engaged position is to run along the earth.”ii


    By the end of the decade, this “fall” of sculpture through the act of installation and arrangement materialized into a consideration of the terrain it covered that tested the fundamental nature of three-dimensional sculpture. Constructing sets comprising identical units arranged as grids on the floor, Andre, in his words, “minimized structure as much as possible.”iii As Shahar Molcho observed of the present work, “Within this seemingly simple installation, Andre compacts complex aesthetic ideas that seek to challenge sculptural conventions such as three-dimensionality or a prerequisite talent in art or craft. The work’s material and grid dictate its final form, with all elements symmetrical, devoid of hierarchy.”iv


    An Elemental Palette

    "In my work there is only the theater of the properties of materials."
    —Carl Andre

    Carl Andre's 37th Piece of Work installed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1970

    Developing an interest in prefabricated industrial materials, Andre took the periodic table of elements as the palette for his floor pieces, which is also reflected in the square form of the individual units. “The periodic table of the elements is for me what the color spectrum is for a painter,” Andre expressed. “Copper is more profoundly different from aluminum than green is from red.”v The theme of six in the present work embodies the six common metals—aluminum, copper, steel, magnesium, led and zinc—that he primarily engaged with for his floor pieces, and the theme of thirty-six reflects all thirty-six possible combinations of their pairings, which was eventually demonstrated in his 37th Piece of Work at the Guggenheim Museum. Attune to the distinct physical properties of the various element, he considered the weight, color, luster, and sound of each metal—in this case, copper. For Andre, working with the material’s inherent properties was remaining true to his sensibility: “You might say that I submit to the properties of my materials out of a kind of reflection of my own temperament.”vi


    Sculpture as Place

    "All my works have implied, to some degree or another, a spectator moving along them or around them….They’re like roads, but certainly not fixed point vistas. I think sculpture should have an infinite point of view."
    —Carl Andre

    The present work installed at When Attitudes Become Form at the Fondazione Prada, Venice in 2013

    Manifesting the artist’s use of real space as a medium activated by the viewer, the present work sensitizes the viewer to copper’s material properties as they traverse the sculpture, feeling the weighty elements anchored by gravity under their feet and hearing the subtle tones generated by physicality of the modular units. The sculpture plays in direct response to perspectival shifts of the eye and body, each new step or glance offering a perceptual transformation. “My idea of a piece of sculpture is a road,” Andre explained. “That is, a road doesn’t reveal itself at any particular point or from any particular point. Roads appear and disappear. We either have to travel on them or beside them. But we don’t have a single point of view for a road at all, except a moving one, moving along it.”vii  Epitomizing Andre’s terse account of modern sculpture, 36 Copper Square embodies “the course of development / sculpture as form / sculpture as structure / sculpture as place.”viii

  • A Selection from Paul Sutinen’s “Twenty Questions for Carl Andre,” June 1980

  • i Shahar Molcho, Red Over Yellow: A Selection from a Private Collection, exh. cat., Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2017, p. 76.
    ii Carl Andre, quoted in David Bourbon, “The Razed Sites of Carl Andre,” Artforum, vol. 5, no. 2, October 1996, p. 15.
    iii Carl Andre, quoted in “Carl Andre – Works of Art Don’t Mean Anything,” TateShots, Tate, London, 2014, online.
    iv  Shahar Molcho, Red Over Yellow: A Selection from a Private Collection, exh. cat., Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2017, p. 76.
    v Carl Andre, quoted in Paul Sutenin, “Carl Andre: The Turner of Matter?,” Willamette Week’s Fresh Weekly, August 1980, p. 9.
    vi Carl Andre, quoted in Phyllis Tuchman, “An Interview with Carl Andre,” Artforum, vol. 8, no. 10, Summer 1970,  59.
    vii Ibid., 57.
    viii Carl Andre, quoted in David Bourbon, “The Razed Sites of Carl Andre,” Artforum, vol. 5, no. 2, October 1996, p. 15.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf
      Helga and Walther Lauffs, Krefeld (acquired from the above in October 1968)
      Sotheby's, New York, May 14, 2008, lot 19
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthalle Bern; Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange; London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, When Attitudes Become Form, March 22 - October 27, 1969, no. 1, n.p.
      Kunsthalle Bern, Carl Andre: Sculpture 1958-1974, April 24 - June 8, 1975, no. 39, p. 37
      Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Sammlung Helga und Walther Lauffs - Amerikanische und europäische Kunst der sechziger und siebziger Jahre, November 13, 1983 - April 8, 1984, no. 2, pp. 152-153 (illustrated)
      Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Schwerpunkt Skulptur, June 21 - October 11, 1992, p. 5 (illustrated, p. 4)
      Krefeld, Haus Lange und Haus Esters, Carl Andre Sculptor 1966, February 4 - April 21, 1996, no. 35, p. 148 (illustrated, p. 149)
      Venice, Fondazione Prada, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013, June 1 – November 3, 2013, no. 1, p. 550 (illustrated, pp. 166, 619)
      Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Red over Yellow: A Selection from a Private Collection, June 21 - December 2, 2017, pp. 10, 40, 42 (illustrated, p. 41; installation view illustrated, pp. 59, 62, 63, 94)

    • Literature

      Carl Andre, exh. cat., Haags Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, 1987, no. 39, p. 34
      Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld, Schwerpunkt Skulptur: Hundertvierzig Werke von achtzig Künstlern, 1950-1990, Bonn, 1992, no. 2, p. XXXIII (illustrated, p. 63)

Property from a Distinguished Collection


36 Copper Square

copper, in 36 parts
each .5 x 50 x 50 cm (1/4 x 19 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
overall .5 x 300 x 300 cm (1/4 x 118 1/8 x 118 1/8 in.)

Executed in 1968, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for $2,692,000

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