Caroline Walker - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Phillips

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  • In Caroline Walker’s 2010 painting, Conservation, a woman in her underwear stretches to place an Ancient Greek vase on a floating glass shelf. She stands in a minimal, yet luxurious, interior, with an orchid, cowhide rug, and four mirror-paneled closet doors, which reflect the scene back in on itself. The present work dates to a key point in Walker’s career as an artist, when she shifted from painting scenes of Victorian-style interiors to spaces with more modern architecture.Having grown up in a Victorian home herself, the change in scenery ignited Walker’s curiosity as an artist, and she continued to push themes of perspective, reflection, and interiority.


     “[I] became interested in the idea of dream homes, and what might go on in them.”
    —Caroline Walker

    The abundance of reflective surfaces in the dream home of Conservation—from the closet doors to the glass shelves and table—encourages a sense of prolonged contemplation. Walker utilizes these surfaces to keep the eye moving between objects, their reflections, and fragments of those reflections. The woman acts, and acts in reflection; the viewer views, and views again. The visual device recalls Édouard Manet’s Bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1882, Courtauld Gallery, London, which shows a female bartender at work, and the scene behind her reflected in a bar-length mirror. But where Manet’s work traffics in how the female bartender is seen by her male patrons, Walker inverts the gender of the painter’s gaze. How, she wonders, is it different when it’s a woman looking at women?ii


    Édouard Manet, Bar aux Folies-Bergère, 1882. The Courtauld Gallery, London. Image: © The Courtauld / Bridgeman Images

    In Conservation, Walker places the viewer behind a white armchair, a slightly covert position, which allows them to see the woman, and her reflection, perhaps without being seen in return. While Walker jokes that her voyeuristic impulse stems from “being nosy,” there’s also a calm sense of intimacy to the placement of the gaze in Conservation.iii It is as if we are sitting in the room together with the woman, watching her in a delicate moment of trust; in sheer underwear, her sweater lifting up her midriff, she extends on tiptoe to place the fragile vase.


    “I like moving between that slightly voyeuristic position and then actually being in the room, becoming much more implicated in the scene.”
    —Caroline Walker 

    Walker directs her painterly gaze towards the overlooked parts of women’s lives; the interior spaces they occupy, and the work they do within them. Walker is fascinated by the daily tasks women perform that, as she says, are by their very nature invisible because of what they aim to achieve.iv Take, for example, dusting a set of floating glass shelves, or watering an orchid, domestic tasks that go unnoticed until they have been neglected too long. The shelves gather dust, the orchid droops; Walker records this conservation work, this upkeep of domestic space, across her painted oeuvre.


    Collectors’ Digest


    • Phillips holds the auction record for the artist with Threshold, 2014, realizing $1.1M at our London 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in March 2023. Caroline Walker’s popularity with collectors continues to grow.

    • Her work is represented in a number of public collections, including the National Museum of Wales; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; and Kunstmuseum, The Hague.

    • Recent solo exhibitions include K11 Shanghai, Caroline Walker: Women Observed, Nov. 8, 2022-Feb. 12, 2023; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, Caroline Walker: Lisa, Apr. 29-May 29, 2022. Her work is currently on display at the Foundling Museum, London, as part of the exhibition Finding Family, through August 27th.



    Caroline Walker, quoted in Emily Spicer, “Caroline Walker: ‘Who we perceive to be the maker of an image affects how we consume it,” studio international, Oct. 4, 2017, online.

    ii Walker, quoted in Chloë Ashby, “The Eyes of Caroline Walker: ‘It’s different when it’s a woman looking at women,’” Elephant, May 13, 2022, online.

    iii Ibid.

    iv Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Ana Cristea Gallery, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2011)
      Handpicked: 50 works selected by the Saatchi Gallery, Christie’s, London, March 27, 2019, lot 27
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Ana Cristea Gallery, Caroline Walker: Vantage Point, February 24–April 2, 2011

    • Literature

      Marco Livingstone, Jane Neal and Matt Price, Caroline Walker: In Every Dream Home, Wakefield, 2013, p. 9 (illustrated, p. 45)
      Matt Price, “The Scottish Connection,” Flash Art, November 9, 2015, online (illustrated)

Ο ◆2


oil on canvas
78 3/4 x 114 3/8 in. (200 x 290.5 cm)
Painted in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $469,900

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2023