Danh Vo - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘When Bartholdi created the Statue of Liberty...he created an image and a political agenda. What I'm doing with it is a shift of scale and shift of meaning … [it] is more a project that should evoke discussion in the place that it is exhibited. And we'll have to wait to see what that will be.’

    - DANH VO, 2014

    Recipient of the Hugo Boss award in 2012, Danh Vo is an artist who pushes the boundaries of appropriation to their limits. Working from the original drawings, Vo commissioned a replica of Frederic August Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty to be used as a cast over which copper sheets, no thicker than a penny, were hammered. By this adaptation of the method by which the original statue was constructed, Vo created a new, disjointed version. As each piece was completed (including the present lot), they were shipped to various museums and galleries across the globe in a practice that makes it unlikely that the figure will ever come together as a whole. This fragmented form can be read as a physical manifestation of the histories of cultural displacement, forced to exist forever in a suspended dimension.

    In his own lifetime Vo experienced such displacement as an external force in the creation of his identity, when his family fled Vietnam and settled in Denmark in the late 1970s. The contours of Lady Liberty offer an intimate and abstracted encounter with the figure: upon first glace the fragments do not appear to belong to a woman at all, but are more reminiscent of a conceptual work by Donald Judd or Richard Serra. However, as each part circulates, the ideals of freedom and liberty are scattered further than they could be if she were whole.

    In We The People, Vo articulates a democratic impulse of international resonance. The original Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States after the Americans’ success in the Civil War, was created in France but partly paid for by American dollars: Vo’s version was financed by his French gallery, conceived at his studio in Germany and constructed in Shanghai. Vo’s own identity resonates with the aspirational aura of the statue, since when his family fled Vietnam they did so in the hopes of reaching America. His artistic engagement with American political history is an expression of manifold immigrant experiences. The work’s eloquent conception explores the connections and disjunctions between original and contemporary modes of production, and the vital links between past constructions of meaning and ways they are interpreted in the present.


We The People (detail), Element #L1

200 x 106.7 x 22.9 cm (78 3/4 x 42 x 9 in.)

£150,000 - 200,000 ‡♠

Sold for £158,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm