Cory Arcangel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | 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 Cory Arcangel has been a pioneer of technology-based art since 1996 when he first learnt to code, fusing a fascination with digital technologies with his classical music training. Known for his ‘alternately crude and clever interventions into the technologies that are so embedded in our daily lives’ Arcangel takes the material of the digital everyday – computer games, image editing tools, YouTube videos – as his primary resource.i A Dadaist for the Digital Age, Arcangel explores the relationship of culture to technology, just as Duchamp’s Readymades examined the culture of the Machine Age through the appropriation of industrially mass-produced bottle racks and urinals a century before.

    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


    ‘Whitney Stories: Cory Arcangel’, 2014


    Material, Process, and Art Historical Precedent

    'You open it up and there’s this paint bucket. If you click and hold it you get the gradient tool. Then you click up here and get to pick these different options. You drag it and it goes like this! That’s how you make them.' — Cory Arcangel 

    With its serene chromatic radiations, emanating from a single point, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300DPI, RGB, squarepixels, default gradient "Blue, Red, Yellow"(turnreverse on), mousedown y=1550 x=18400, mouseup y=300x=150 expands and makes legible spectral colour through the mechanics of computer software programme Adobe Photoshop. An easily accessible graphics editing program, Adobe’s gradient tool allows users to fill in an area of space shifting from one colour to another. Executed with a computer mouse, the composition is then transferred into a unique large-scale c-print using the highest quality of print technology, mounting and framing. A typical example of the artist’s Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations series commenced in 2007, the title refers to the exact coordinates of the user’s mouse as it hovers over the x- and y- axes of the gridded source.

    '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

    Several works from this series were included in Pro Tools, Arcangel’s 2011 solo exhibition at the Whitey 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. 


    Creating art at the raw edge of computer programming, it is perhaps unsurprising that the terms used by Arcangel to describe his ideal studio set-up would be closer to the corporate offices of a software company than to what we might traditionally think of as a space of artistic production. As radical a challenge to models of art and art making as Andy Warhol’s Factory was in the 1960s, Arcangel’s work is characterised by a comparable focus on process, technologies of reproduction, and materials to the self-styled prince of Pop art. 


    Andy Warhol, 1-Andy-Warhol-Andy2-1985-AWF, Self-Portrait made with flood fills © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London.

    Famously telling Art News interviewer Gene Swenson ‘The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do’ Warhol worked at the interface of art and technology, mechanising the means of his art production radically with his screen-printing practice.iii


    Warhol was also one of the first artists to conceptualise computer software and programs as possible tools for art-making, making a series of digital artworks on his Amiga 1000. Largely forgotten about, Cory Arcangel was hugely instrumental in tracking down and organising the restoration of these Warhol works from the obsolete floppy disk technology that they were stored across, having become fascinated by a YouTube clip of the older artist painting Debbie Harry on an Amiga in the 1980s. Both digital pioneers, 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’.iv


    Andy Warhol paints Debbie Harry on Amiga, 1985


    Collector’s Digest


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


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

    •    In addition to a selection of group shows, Arcangel also presented his solo exhibition ‘Century 21’ at Greene Naftali gallery, New York in April this year featuring a Kim-Kardashian-themed video game.

    i Taylor Dafoe, interview with Cory Arcangel, Artnet News, 9 April 2021, online 
    ii Cory Arcangel, Whitney Stories: Cory Arcangel, The Whitney Museum of American Art, 4 June 2014, online
    iii Andy Warhol, interviewed by G. R. Swenson, ‘What is Pop Art’, ARTnews, November 1963
    iv Christiane Paul, Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, (, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2011, p. 28.

    • Provenance

      Lisson Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient, "Blue, Red, Yellow" (turn reverse on), mousedown y= 1550 x=18400, mouseup y=300 x=150

chromogenic print face mounted to plexiglass, in artist's frame
213.4 x 167.6 cm (84 x 66 in.)
Executed in 2009.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £233,100

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021