Dan Colen - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • Provenance

    Victoria Miro, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007

  • Exhibited

    London, Victoria Miro, Absent Without Leave, February 17 – March 17, 2009

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I have an idea that's greater than what I could do on my own. There's an energy where everybody is invested."

    DAN COLEN, 2013

    Undeniably and unapologetically discordant, Dan Colen has captivated the Millennial generation with his irreverent and often outrageous aesthetic. Reinterpreting nihilistic urban imagery and the youthful yet sinister subculture of New York’s artistic underworld, Colen’s experimental canvases unite found objects and traditional painterly media in a truly contemporary homage to twenty-first century urban culture. Incorporating the quotidian – spray paint, chewing gum, whoopee cushions, and even basketball back boards – Colen’s compositions reference the Duchampian legacy of the “readymade” while rejecting Pop Art’s overt appropriation. Concerned primarily with process rather than product, Colen’s dynamically destructive oeuvre embodies the gut, grit, and gall of an heir to punk and Pop, suggesting an artist poised to excite and entice his audience for years to come.

    Initially celebrated for his abstract, photo-realist paintings, as Colen’s “bad boy” art world reputation flourished, the artist expanded his practice, embracing the graffiti and clutter of the Lower East Side’s grimy streets. Imbued with a certain sense of rebelliousness, the graffiti works that characterized Colen’s exhibition in the 2006 Whitney Biennial were, in his words, inspired by the “…things you would, you know, come up to like walking through the woods, like teenagers would kind of set up camp and drink beer and sometimes spray paint all over them [...] and so that's where it came from.” (Dan Colen in “Artist Dan Colen Talks About Religion, The Art World, And Inspiration,” The Huffington Post, October 3, 2011) Indebted to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s gestural and graffiti-like canvases and Christopher Wool’s pop culture requisitions, Colen extends the “street art” aesthetic beyond bold-faced, stenciled characters and pervasive juvenile imagery, instead reimagining raw, mundane materials in an innovative abstract expression of artistic vivacity.

    Untitled, 2007 is an energetic investigation of commonplace detritus – the multifaceted manifestation of Colen’s instinctive, impetuous approach to the artistic statement. Engaging the canvas in a haphazard, almost audacious manner, Colen creates his Birdshit series by flinging oil paint across a pristine, white base, soiling the surfaces with dramatic agglomerations simulating the spontaneous pigeon excrement so integral to the urban landscape. Reflecting upon this series, Colen described the Birdshit paintings: “I've made this large series of 62 canvases that I kind of threw paint at in different ways so they end up looking like they are made of bird shit. They vary in size, touch and colour. Some of them look like Pollocks, some look very realistic, others are painterly, some are dumb, some are elegant, some are beautiful.” (Dan Colen quoted in "My paintings look like shit," The Guardian Art & Design Blog, February 16, 2007) A trompe l’oeil arrangement, Untitled, 2007 unites five of these tableaux in a conversant composition of chartreuse, olive, and seafoam splatters – a monument to the contemporary cityscape and its gritty yet artful milieu.

    The subtle connectivity between Colen’s diverse body of work is an active dialogue between the readymade and the raw material. Influenced profoundly by his contemporaries – Ryan McGinley and Dash Snow, for example – the artist’s Birdshit series offers the viewer a glimpse of the captivating downtown-cool to which few are privy. Providing insight into his own struggle with artistic celebrity and the challenge of creativity, Colen notes, “It’s such a paradox. You come from this place where you want fame; you don’t want to be bourgeois, but you want to be successful. You want to be accepted, but you also want to be going against the grain. You want to be on the outside, but you want to be on the inside.” (Dan Colen in R. McGinley, “Dan Colen,” Interview Magazine, September 7, 2010) Focusing his creative process in virtuosic, gestural bursts of energy, realized in streaks of amorphous color, Colen’s Birdshit compositions firmly ensconce him in the Abstract Expressionist tradition, simultaneously establishing him as the artistic voice of a new – and transformative – generation.

  • Artist Biography

    Dan Colen

    American • 1979

    American artist Dan Colen has spent most of his career asking himself questions about the editorial decisions artists have to make when creating a scene from scratch on canvas. In his early work, Colen painted mundane interiors punctuated with fantastical elements. This manifested as part of a growing curiosity in the ethereal or divine intervention.

    Colen subsequently stepped away from paint as material and started using found objects as mediums with which to paint. Among these, Colen has used chewing gum, street trash, confetti, feathers, flowers and dirt. This methodology allows Colen to abandon control and create in a more free-form, subconscious manner.

    View More Works



2006 - 07
oil on canvas, in 5 parts
(i), (iv) 24 x 17 7/8 in. (61 x 45.5 cm.)
(ii) 27 7/8 x 21 7/8 in. (71 x 55.5 cm.)
(iii) 48 x 24 in. (122 x 61 cm.)
(v) 16 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. (42 x 27 cm.)

Each signed and dated on the reverse.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $545,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM