Chris Burden - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    London Projects, London
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, November 12, 2004, lot 177
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Barcelona, Centre d'Art Santa Mònica, Chris Burden, October 1995 - January 1996, p. 48 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Throughout the later part of the 20th-century and up until his untimely death last spring, Chris Burden transcended the limits of contemporary performance art and sculptural practices. His primary concern was the same across both disciplines: “it was the activity of the viewer that I considered art…to see sculpture you have to move around it, and I was trying to boil it down to the core. I thought, ‘If the core is forcing people to move, then maybe that is where the art is.’” (Chris Burden, quoted in interview with Jarrett Earnest, “Applying Pressure”, November 5th, 2013, online)

    Widely known for his shocking “body work” performances of the early part of the 70s and intricately designed sculptures in the 80s and 90s, Chris Burden continually sought viewer engagement thematically, by exploring the human condition, and aesthetically, by challenging the notion of what constituted art in a postmodern world. The present lot, Hospital Ship from 1992, beckons close inspection in its intricacy, structure, and subject matter. In its sheer complexity, the viewer is confronted with a suspended object composed of materials from Burden’s collection of found miniature toys, motor parts, and scientific paraphernalia, inviting the very act of “moving around”. From the suspension hangs a metal bicycle frame attached to steel wires; within the frame’s crevices, there are small cylinders, deeper inside which are staged dioramas of miniature figures occupying their own architectural worlds. These components make up the “ship,” which hangs as if floating. The very act of looking inside each of the object’s staged spaces, highlights the smallness of human life in a big world, the existentialism of postmodern art realized in sculptural form. Of Burden’s practice, Howard Singerman says, “if most postmodern works are scaled to the size of familiar art objects, precisely in order to pass more easily, Burden’s projects are outsized; they are too big or too small, and they are always difficult.” (Chris Burden: A Twenty-Year Survey, exh. cat., Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, 1988, p. 25) Hospital Ship’s miniature components make it an exceptional example of Burden’s most difficult works, meant not to pass easily, but instead to pose questions and challenge the aesthetic confines of what art is and can be.


Hospital Ship

metal bicycle frame, stainless steel wire, metal and miniatures
33 x 28 x 10 1/2 in. (83.8 x 71.1 x 26.7 cm)
Executed in 1992.

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $62,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2016