David Hammons - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, 2015 (on extended loan)

  • Literature

    David Hammons, exh. cat., L&M Arts, New York, 2012, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Nearly every one of these works belongs in a museum, in a room of its own. Any other art juxtaposed with it would curl up and die.” – The New Yorker

    One of the most consequential artists working today, David Hammons has spent the past five decades constructing deeply insightful works that eschew easy categorization. Untitled, 2008, a powerful example from the artist’s acclaimed series of tarp paintings, is no exception. Combining diverse art historical references from antiquity to the present day, Untitled is the culmination of Hammons’ questioning of the hierarchy of artistic materials and representation.

    A staunch critic of institutional elitism, Untitled illustrates Hammons’ deep-seeded views regarding the dynamics of race and power in America. Though strikingly elegant in form, the work possesses an undeniable rawness achieved through the artist’s characteristic use of found or ephemeral materials. An embodiment of paradoxes, Untitled straddles the line between sculpture and painting, high art and the everyday, highlighting the importance of accessibility and familiarity in his celebrated oeuvre.

    In Untitled, Hammons cloaks a half-painted canvas marked with silvery brushstrokes with a plastic, industrial tarp. Only through the rips and holes in the found material does Hammons allow glimpses of the gestural brushstrokes beneath. Painted in an Abstract Expressionist style – an indisputable mark of value in today’s art market – Untitled challenges these established hierarchies, physically obscuring them with quotidian materials. A conscious questioning of the preciousness of painting, Hammons’ work visually denies the canon of its traditional reverence.

    Through the act of draping, Hammons inevitably references Classical Greek sculpture and the female nude. Recalling the extensive history of the figure obscured by drapery, Hammons plays within the sphere of visibility and invisibility, and the plethora of connotations that coincide. In Untitled, the veiled painting is a substitute for the nude form, shrouded in a cloth that both masks and reveals what lies beneath. Through this wrapping, the painting itself – a symbol of the elitism of the art world – is unattainable in all that it represents. By replacing the immaculate white marble characteristic of Classical sculpture with a black tarp, Hammons presents a new form of veiling, calling attention to the overwhelming homogeneity of the entire canon of art history with his own representation of the historically marginalized, black urban experience.

    In 2011, Hammons partnered with L&M Arts in New York to curate an exhibition of his tarp paintings. Shortly thereafter, The Museum of Modern Art, New York acquired a work from this series, Untitled, 2010, for their permanent collection. By presenting works that allude to homelessness in a pristine, white cube environment, Hammons both engages with and ridicules the elitism of these institutions, commenting on the ways in which reputations are manufactured and value is assigned. The New Yorker published a review of the L&M Arts exhibition, boldly asserting that this body of work: “…achieved a perfect synthesis of [Hammons’] political animus and his aesthetic avidity. Call it Minimalist Expressionism. Nearly every one of these works belongs in a museum, in a room of its own. Any other art juxtaposed with it would curl up and die” (“Goings on About Town”, The New Yorker, February 2011, online).

  • Artist Biography

    David Hammons

    American • 1943

    Few artists are afforded the liberty to dictate exhibition schedules and public appearances, but David Hammons eschews the spotlight and rebels against the conventions of the art world. Whether intentionally or not, Hammons creates works so laden with spell-binding metaphor that they have become symbols for movements both in the art world as well as in the public domain. (His now-iconic In the Hood sculpture has been used by Black Lives Matter activist group.)

    Hammons doesn't work in mediums or any formal or academic theory—he famously has said, "I can't stand art actually." Still, with controversial works including his PETA-paint-splashed Fur Coat sculpture, Hammons remains one of contemporary art's most watched artists. Hammons also doesn't frequently exhibit, and his last major gallery show, 2016's "Five Decades," only featured 34 works. With a controlled market, Hammons saw Untitled, a basketball hoop with dangling candelabra, achieve $8 million at Phillips in 2013. 

    View More Works



signed and dated "5/17/08 Hammons" on the reverse
mixed media
canvas 80 x 70 in. (203.2 x 177.8 cm.)
installed 102 x 84 x 10 in. (259.1 x 213.4 x 25.4 cm.)

Executed on May 17, 2008.

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue