Dana Schutz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts - CFA
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Montreal, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Dana Schutz, 17 October 2015 - 10 January 2016 (illustrated)
    Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts - CFA, Waiting for the Barbarians, 17 September - 29 October 2016, pl. 5, pp. 8, 10 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    American artist Dana Schutz is known for integrating painterly traditions with dark humour in her works. Depicting grotesque imagery and anamorphic paintings with saccharine colours, her subject matter is highly imaginative and often centred on surreal situations that explore the nuances of the human condition. Exhibited in her first solo exhibition in Canada, a 14-year retrospective at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MACM), the present lot Boy with Bubble showcases a light hearted, bubble-gum depiction of her typically more violent works. Though less ostensibly unsettling in terms of its subject matter, the work still retains a seductively disturbing quality that highlights her interest in psychological expression.

    As the title indicates, Boy with Bubble depicts a boy against a mountainous scene interacting with a soap bubble in wide-eyed wonder. Rendered in the traditional single-point perspective, the roundness of the sun is echoed by the spherical bubble and the boy’s unnaturally rotund head, occupying the majority of the composition. As explained by Schutz in her audio commentary for the work in the MACM exhibition: “I was interested in this distorted view of the world through the soap bubble and this sort of moment or instant where it could all disappear.” (Dana Schutz, quoted in ‘Boy with Bubble audio commentary’, http://danaschutz.macm.org, online). Within the soap bubble, the vibrant scenery of the Alps in springtime is magnified, illustrating a sense of surreal ephemerality to the world before it pops. Schutz’s characteristic style of compressing large spaces into the confines of the canvas further evokes a sense of suspense; her preference towards painting in high chromatic temperatures demands the viewers’ attention as the world within the frame seems to be bursting at the seams--much like the titular bubble. As compared to the weightless transparency of the bubble, Schutz’s use of flat, candy-like colours, and the materiality of paint conveyed through her brushstrokes in the illustration of a boy flushed with excitement adds considerable heft to his head. In the way one anticipates for the bubble to pop, the viewer cannot help but feel that the boy’s jawbreaker-like head could roll off or topple at any second. At the same time, the boy’s expression, with his bulbous eyes and wide-open mouth could almost be interpreted as sinister. It is unclear whether he is marvelling at the wonders reflected in the bubble, or whether he is about to burst and destroy the bubble itself. Underneath the aggressive projection of a scene of childlike innocence and wonder, the painting simultaneously conveys undercurrents of foreboding and anxiety that is both unsettling yet compelling.

    As a contemporary artist who takes her inspiration from the old masters in art history, Schutz’s works are predominantly preoccupied with painterly conventions. The artist is very deliberate in her placement of colours, varying the texture of the image with brushstrokes that range from large flat blocks of colour that layer seamlessly (as can been seen in the rendering of her mountains); to clean lines that seem to cut through the canvas (such as the details of the sun, and the pink flush of the boy’s cheek). Schutz pays great attention to her technique, evoking a sense of marvel and beauty in an otherwise surreal, and often grotesque and disturbing narrative.

    Following the MACM exhibition, the present lot was also exhibited in Waiting for the Barbarians, the artist’s fifth solo presentation at Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin. Dana Schutz is represented by Petzel Gallery in New York and Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin. Her work has been included in prominent museum collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenhein Museum, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist currently resides and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Boy with Bubble

signed and dated 'Dana Schutz 2015' on the reverse
oil on canvas
101.9 x 127.3 cm. (40 1/8 x 50 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

HK$800,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for HK$2,750,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019