Cory Arcangel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I like to pick things that people can’t yet see its value; it hasn’t yet become of interest. The game is always to give people something they recognise, but that might not entirely make sense to them."
    —Cory Arcangel
    A leader in the field of technology-based art, American artist Cory Arcangel pioneered the use of non-traditional tools from our digital everyday including image editing tools, computer games, and online media in his practice. An early adopter of digital technologies, Arcangel first learned to code in 1996, finding in the language of computer programming a way of connecting his classical musical training with modes of art-making. A Dadaist for the Digital Age, Arcangel’s ‘alternately crude and clever interventions into the technologies that are so embedded in our daily lives’ address the constantly evolving relationship between culture and technology, drawing on a lineage of artists including Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.i Despite being often described as a ‘new media artist’, Arcangel is quick to point out the speed of cycles of innovation and obsolescence built into our consumption of technology in the twenty first century. Quipping that ‘all new media is old media’, the artist appropriates low-fi, retro or obsolete technologies such as early iterations of Nintendo consoles and basic software programs, drawing out our relationships to these tools, and the technological and socio-cultural shifts they represent.ii

    Cory Arcangel discusses computer art


    Art and Technology


    While Arcangel works across multiple mediums (including musical composition, performance, modified video games), it is his adoption of revolutionary raw artistic materials for which he is best known. Appropriating a wide range of software, hardware, and a range of digital media, the multi-disciplinary artist has developed a distinctive practice mediated through his use of everyday technological tools. Generated using the computer software programme Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop CS: 60 by 60 inches, RGB, square pixels, default gradient "Grey Value Shapes", mousedown y=17960 x=620, mouseup y=20 x=0; photoshop tool "Wand", click= y=500 x=1940, tolerance=50; default gradient "Grey Value Shapes", mousedown y=120 x=50402 is a hypnotic example of Arcangel’s celebrated Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations series, first developed by the artist in 2007. A readily available and highly accessible program, Photoshop’s gradient tool allows users to generate gradual transitions between colours, the title of the present work referring to the exact coordinates of the mouse as it hovers over the x and y axis. An unusually monochromatic example, here Arcangel used the Grey Value Stripes gradient to achieve the rhythmic intersections of bands of grey, before transferring the computer-generated composition into a unique large-scale c-print using the highest quality of print technology, mounting, and framing.

    "People keep coming at me with the question, is it a painting or is it a photograph? Technically it’s a photograph. It’s a photograph because it’s photographic paper. But obviously I think about them as paintings, because they refer to the history of painting, right? I also have to think about them as sculptures, because every part of the process is part of the project. They’re sculptures because they play on the idea of what should be hanging in a gallery. In that sense they’re also kind of ready-mades."
    —Cory Arcangel
    As well as the obvious Duchampian references embedded in the nature of its production and the title’s functioning as its own ‘Instructions for a Readymade’, the formal qualities of the work align it more closely with the legacies of abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. Introducing an element of chance into his work, Kelly also employed a more randomised approach to composition, cutting a black and white brushstroke into twenty squares, rearranged and inverted before being painted onto wood panels in a work like the 1951 Cite. Visually recalling the bold, rhythmic patterning of Kelly’s work, in its chromatic control, the present lot also draws attention to questions of colour perception that chime with Kelly’s own.


    The cornerstone of Arcangel’s practice, the Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations series have been prominently included in Arcangels major exhibitions, including the 2010 The Sharper Image hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and the major mid-career retrospective Pro-Tools held the following year at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Only in his thirties at the time, Arcangel was the youngest artist to have been invited to present a retrospective of that size and scope at the museum. As its title playfully alludes to, the exhibition’s concept was rooted in ideas around ‘product demonstrations’ and the emerging notion of software as essential professional tools. A digital pioneer, Arcangel’s works ‘ultimately do not evaluate technology itself but the human perspective on it—the ways in which we play with tools to engage the world.’iii


    Collector’s Digest


    • Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Cory Arcangel received a BM from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2000.


    • In 2011, Arcangel became the youngest artist since Bruce Nauman to have been given a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Acangel has also been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami in 2010; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin in 2010; the Barbican Art Gallery in London in 2011; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh in 2013, and the Fondation DHC/Art, Montreal in 2013. In 2005 he was awarded the Jury Prize of the New York Underground Film Festival.


    i Taylor Dafoe, ‘ Cory Arcangel’s Latest Artwork Is a Kim Kardashian-Themed Video Game. What Does It Mean? Don’t Ask Him’, Artnet News, 9 April 2021, online.

    ii Cory Arcangel, Whitney Stories: Cory Arcangel, The Whitney Museum of American Art, 4 June 2014, online

    iii Christiane Paul, Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, (, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2011, p. 28.

    • Provenance

      Team Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014


Photoshop CS: 60 by 60 inches, RGB, square pixels, default gradient "Grey Value Shapes", mousedown y=17960 x=620, mouseup y=20 x=0; photoshop tool "Wand", click= y=500 x=1940, tolerance=50; default gradient "Grey Value Shapes", mousedown y=120 x=5040

c-print, in artist's frame
155.9 x 155.9 cm (61 3/8 in. x 61 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for £226,800

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 14 October 2022