Claire Tabouret - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 2, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “My characters resist. Adults want to trap children, to dress them in costumes; mine foam with rage to get free!”
    —Claire Tabouret

    With her powerful figurative canvases, executed with layers of paint and opalescent, almost transparent, colours, Claire Tabouret explores the notions of community and identity. The French artist, currently based in Los Angeles, wants to show us a reality that is in constant change, her paintings placing us in the middle of an unfolding narrative that, ‘at once familiar and alien’, creates the ‘uncanny sense of being both inside and outside of history.’i


    Immersed in a seductive, phosphorescent light, L’Attente portrays a group of costumed children lined up in two rows. In the shallow pictorial space, they are arranged closely together, stacked in a tight, vertical format in a manner that visually recalls the more rigid configuration favoured by studio photography. The figures are depicted frontally, in a direct but hermetic attitude, confronting the viewer with a powerful and disarming gaze. As stated by the artist, the children she represents ‘have a particular mood -they are not sad, but rather solemn, serious. There is latent violence and anger in their eyes.’ii The children look straight ahead. Their piercing and implacable gazes express a determination that sits in a strange tension with their young age. They stand motionless together, like single entities all part of the same crowd, but there is a kind of individualistic resistance in the way each of them stares out at us.


    Portrait Otto und Emma Richter. Children in costume for a children's party, c. 1870. Photograph by Jos. Hoffmann / Vienna.
    Detail of the present work

    Life Through a Lens


    At once haunting and immediately engaging, Tabouret’s painted characters are inspired by photographs, some taken from her personal archive and others from anonymous shots collected during the course of her research. In this respect, her relationship to history and visual culture echoes that of South African figurative artist Marlene Dumas, who borrows images from a vast array of mass-media sources in the production of her arresting paintings. Reworked under her distinctive treatment, Dumas’ characters take on a phantasmagorical presence, as the flat, often grainy and mass-produced images are made more human and intimate through her luminous, tender brushwork. Like Dumas’ frozen scenes and their blend of ‘second-hand images and first-hand emotions’, Tabouret’s figures appear suspended in space and time, ghostly impressions that seem to bring us into a direct and intimate relationship with history.’iii As Tabouret eloquently describes, in restoring something lost or otherwise absent from these source images, the painting thus emerges as ‘a palliative to everything I am feeling that isn’t actually visible in the photograph.’iv


    Marlene Dumas, The Turkish Schoolgirls, 1986, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Image and Artwork: © Marlene Dumas

    Despite their costumes, Tabouret’s children are not reduced to the roles they are called to play – pupils, scouts, kids in Carnival attire, debutantes to life; in fact, nothing seems to inhibit their freedom to express themselves as individuals, or to stymie their potential for independent growth, opposition, or the outright refusal of certain expectations thrust upon them. In her painterly technique, Tabouret captures the unique experience of childhood as a process of becoming, the passing years expanding and contracting as they form a shifting and unfixed passage into adulthood. In her diffused treatment of paint and non-naturalistic palette here, the artist perfectly distils this sense of immanence, dissolving the physical boundaries between her subjects as a way of visualising both the process of becoming individual, and the fascinating quality of group dynamics and the fluid interconnectivity experienced in these shared moments.


    Tabouret’s phosphorescent canvases have an important art-historical precedent in the Impressionistic experimentation of Claude Monet’s monumental Nymphéas. Referencing a childhood visit to the Orangerie in Paris, Tabouret recalls feeling swallowed up by the paintings ‘buried under this amount of colourful paint.’v Identifying colour as the guiding principle of her work, Tabouret has a refreshingly contemporary approach to the fluidity and mutability of Impressionism and her work continues to build on these early lessons. Knowing from the moment that she stood in front of Monet’s immersive canvases that she had to pursue a life in painting, this precocious determination is echoed in the characters of L’Attente, oscillating between the innocence of childhood and the power of becoming adults. ‘L’attente’, the waiting of life, indeed.


    Collector’s Digest

    • Claire Tabouret’s striking paintings and fierce determination allowed her to become one of the most sought-after contemporary artists. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions in international venues such as Palazzo Cavanis in Venice during La Biennale di Venezia 2022, the Musée Picasso in Paris, the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rouen and the Yuz Museum in Shanghai. She was also featured in group exhibitions at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, the Bourse de Commerce Fondation Pinault in Paris, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene and the Zuzeum Art Centre in Riga.

    • Her work is part of prestigious international collections, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Perez Art Museum in Miami, the Pinault Collection, the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, the Madre Museum in Naples, the Voorlinden Museum in Holland, the Kistefos Museum in Norway, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the FRAC Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, the FRAC Haute Normandie in Rouen, the Agnes B Collection, the Emerige Collection and the Leuwen Foundation, among others.


    i Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ‘The Self and the Group: The Many Subjects of Claire Tabouret’, in Claire Tabouret, Paris, 2022, p. 23.

    ii Claire Tabouret, quoted in Léa Bismuth, ‘An Interview of Claire Tabouret by Léa Bismuth’, 7 February 2014, online.

    iii Marlene Dumas, quoted in Measuring Your Own Grave (exh. cat.), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, online.

    iv Claire Tabouret, quoted in Léa Bismuth, ‘An Interview of Claire Tabouret by Léa Bismuth’, 7 February 2014, online.

    v Claire Tabouret,  quoted in ‘Les Debutantes’, dailymotion, online.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Bugada & Cargnel, Paris
      Apart Art Advisory, Monza and Brianza
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from an Eminent Private European Collection



signed, titled and dated ‘C. TABOURET 2015 L’ATTENTE’ on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
162 x 130 cm (63 3/4 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£180,000 - 280,000 ‡♠

Sold for £241,300

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 March 2023