Danh Vo - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Copenhagen, National Gallery of Denmark, Danh Vo, We The People (detail), 1 June 2012 - 1 August 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    An elegant and undulating patchwork of copper, conceptual artist Danh Vo’s We the People (Detail) is as subtle as it is monumental. Part of the artist’s most ambitious project to date, the present lot is one of around 400 unique ‘Detail’ objects recast from an exact replica of the leviathan Statue of Liberty, an icon that has watched over New York Harbour for over 120 years. As much a symbol of New York City as it is of Western democracy, the dismembered goddess has been transformed into an impossible puzzle of gleaming abstractions. Danh Vo’s We the People project is a characteristic example of the artist’s sophisticated and nuanced interpretation of the Duchampian ready-made.

    Archaeologist, anthropologist and artist, Vo chose the iconic statue because of its immediate recognition in popular culture: ‘I wanted to do something that everyone had a relationship to, and make it a bit unfamiliar. It’s kind of like creating a Frankenstein that gets its own life’ (Interview with Kirthana Ramisetti, The Wall Street Journal, 15 May 2014). Though the artist admits in a 2012 interview that ‘Actually, I never saw it for real before I started the project. Looking back, I know that there were several works that I was rather obsessed with, by artists who had in some ways incorporated the Statue of Liberty.' To create this enormous series of sculpture, Vo worked with fabricators
    in Shanghai to replicate the original copper sculpture by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.
    Danh Vo chose to use the same materials and technique, perfectly replicating
    every detail. The artist’s reinterpretation of the world through the objects and
    symbols he finds around him reflects his own personal narrative. Originally on
    a ship from Vietnam and bound for the United States in 1979, Danh Vo and
    his family were intercepted
    by a Danish tanker, bringing the artist and his family to Denmark. Growing up
    as an immigrant in Denmark, the artist draws from this experience, visualising
    the fracture of identity that results from forced cultural assimilation. For
    practical and conceptual reasons, the artist chose to scatter the many ‘Details’ from
    the series around the world: the iconic image of freedom.

    By deconstructing the Statue of Liberty and reconfiguring her into smaller individual fragments, Vo adds his own layer of conceptual richness to this well-known symbol of freedom. Through this deliberate fragmentation, the artist challenges traditional perspective of 'Lady Liberty', changing our physical and intellectual relationship to the sculpture. Like the monumental work of contemporary heavy-weights like Richard Serra and Antony Gormley, this reconfiguration of perspective makes us question our own relationship to body and identity. Taken from the drapery folds of the Statue of Liberty’s stola, abstracted in its isolation, the present lot explores notions of private and national identity.


We The People (detail)

203 x 264 x 87 cm (79 7/8 x 103 7/8 x 34 1/4 in.)

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £206,500

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm