Cecily Brown - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Boston, Museum of Fine Art Boston, Cecily Brown, 18 October 2006 - 15 January 2007

  • Literature

    Dore Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 225 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Captivating in its scale and dynamism, Cecily Brown’s The End immerses the viewer in a uniquely visceral abstract, lexicon that is both laden with the semantic weight of art history whilst being exemplary of the artist’s own revolutionary contributions to the medium of painting. Created in 2006, it comes from a crucial period in Brown’s career when she began to draw influence from the formal genres of Old Master paintings, particularly landscapes, still-life and interior scenes. Here we see the artist intensely refine the colour saturation and sexual connotations of her earlier works to embrace a composition that is subtly imbued with delicate tones and a deliberately covert sensuality. Exquisitely sombre in its cool and minimal use of whites and greys, this work undoubtedly shows Brown at her most elegant and consciously enigmatic. The importance of The End is attested to by its immediate inclusion in Brown’s major solo retrospective at the Museum of Fine Art Boston in late 2006. Upholding widespread critical acclaim through the maintenance of her iconic aesthetic, Brown’s paintings today sit in international institutional collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Tate, London.

    Born in London in 1969 and later studying at the Slade School of Art in the 1980s, Brown rose to worldwide recognition over the course of the 1990s. From the beginning of her career, Brown’s paintings have drawn attention due to their unique exploration of the human experience in its most base and carnal forms. Most crucially Brown’s tactile and textured surfaces construct a metaphorical sphere in which themes of lust, desire, history and the nature of perception are all fractured and re-spliced with hypnotic cerebral effect. As the artist explains: “I am interested in the unfixed nature of things. I want the work to have a trapped energy so that the paint seems to vibrate in place. I want the viewing of it to approximate the experience of being in the world.” (D. Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 25)

    Ever aware of her predecessors, Brown has dedicated her praxis to re-interrogating the line between abstraction and figuration, eschewing pure non-referential abstraction to invite a more nuanced interpretive encounter. As she has explained: “the moment that interests me the most in 20th century painting, and which I feel was not taken that far because abstraction happened in such an extreme way, is the moment when Rothko, Gorky, and Newman were doing those biomorphic things that just hovered on the edge of representation. They’re not quite abstract and they are absolutely grounded in the figure” (Robert Enright, ‘Paint Whisperer: An Interview with Cecily Brown’, Border Crossing, Vol. 4, No. 1, Issue No. 93, p. 40). Seamlessly evoking both the active abstract figuration of Willem de Kooning as well as the surreal forms of Joan Miró, the present work shows Brown reaching a new intellectual maturity as she embraces the ambiguity of discrete symbolic elements as a mechanism for intrigue. In the complex tapestry of energetic brushwork, our natural quest to discern figurative meaning leads us not only across the textured surface of the canvas, but deep into and out of the psychological space that her painterly illusion creates. From ethereal washes to thicker detailing, the variations in paint application invite a perpetual questioning of elements: are they solid mass, shadows, evocations of movement or merely non-representative traces of Brown’s creative psyche?

    In this instance Brown faintly recalls lavish banquet still-life paintings of the 17th century that, through sight, were intended to arouse synesthetic convulsions of touch, taste and smell. We see the intimation of a discarded fork to the bottom right hand side, above what can be read as a block of pink meat. Further inspection might suggest that the swathes of billowing white triangulate to make a central tablecloth. We find ourselves caught in the beautiful havoc of a deconstructed, dining room interior – perhaps ‘the end’ of a dinner party where the texture of Brown’s brush entices the senses as much as the delectable pink food items scattered for our scopophilic pleasure.

    Yet just as the array of circular forms suggest plates and drinking vessels, their fleshy tones and handling might also suggest a sexualised reading as body parts and orifices. We see Brown as intensely aware of her audience as she engages in a flirtatious dialogue, enticing us to make visual assumptions despite a newfound economy of form within her work. As the artist later noted: “I like the fact that because my earlier work was so known for having erotic contents, I actually need to give very little now and it's seen as erotic or hinting at erotic.” (‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown,’ Another, 14 September 2012) Artfully playing on the human tendency to anthropomorphize forms, The End encapsulates both the stunning technical aptitude, and rigorous intellect that makes Brown one of the most important painters of her generation.

Property of an Important Private Collector


The End

oil on linen
215.9 x 226.1 cm. (85 x 89 in.)
Painted in 2006.

HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for HK$4,060,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

General Enquiries
+852 2318 2000

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017