David Hammons - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Phillips

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    "You have to go back to what we were before you go forward to what we want to be. I am here to remind us [where] we came from. I be into memory, more than the avant-garde."
    —David Hammons



    Executed in 1988, Untitled epitomizes David Hammons’ renowned practice of transforming discarded, banal objects into powerful creations loaded with conceptual power and multiplicities of meaning. Drawing inspiration from African art, Egyptian history, and music to European modernism and popular culture, Hammons’ work alters objects and materials through forceful, and at times humorous, shifts in context to explore racial stereotypes and cultural clichés. In the present work, he layers frying pans over remolded rubber tire in the shape of a cassock or black dress, completing the sculpture with a metal chain to ostensibly form a fashionable ensemble that wonderfully encapsulates Kay Larson’s words: “It says a lot about Hammons’ visual sensibilities that all this remains interesting as art, not just politics.”i




    The present work installed at Unexchangeable, Brussels, Wiels, April 19 – August 12, 2018, alongside the artist’s It’s Not Necessary, 1990 (Sold Phillips New York, June 2021). Image: Courtesy of WIELS, Brussels, Photo: Philippe De Gobert

    The present work installed at Unexchangeable, Brussels, Wiels, April 19 – August 12, 2018, alongside the artist’s It’s Not Necessary, 1990 (Sold Phillips New York, June 2021). Image: Courtesy of WIELS, Brussels, Photo: Philippe De Gobert, Artwork: © David Hammons



    By the early 1970s, Hammons began shifting his focus from referencing the power of symbols to the interrogation of symbols in his practice. As the artist recalled, “I was influenced in a way by Mel Edwards’ work. He had a show at the Whitney in 1970 where he used a lot of chains and wires. That was the first abstract piece of art that I saw that had a cultural value in it for Black people. I couldn’t believe that piece when I saw it because I didn’t think you could make abstract art with a message. I saw symbols in Mel’s work…Egypt and stuff. How a symbol, a shape has a meaning. After that, I started using the symbol of the spade…I was trying to figure out why Black people were called spades, as opposed to clubs. Because I remember being called a spade once, and I didn’t know what it meant…I started dealing with the spade the way Jim Dine was using the heart. Then I started getting shovels (spades); I got all of these shovels and made masks out of them. It was just like a chain reaction.”ii



    [left] David Hammons, Spades with Chains, 1973. Artwork: © 2021 David Hammons [right] David Hammons, Untitled, 1988. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Artwork: © 2021 David Hammons

    [left] David Hammons, Spades with Chains, 1973. Artwork: © 2021 David Hammons [right] David Hammons, Untitled, 1988. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Artwork: © 2021 David Hammons




    "One thinks of Brancusi’s visual simplicity, while marveling at the complex layer of meanings that the real objects convey. His art is strikingly graceful and starkly inventive. Each raw component has what you might call street use value."
    —Kay Larson




    By the time Hammons created Untitled, he had fully realized the expressive possibilities of employing found objects as potent signs and symbols of meaning. The present work at once relates to his use of chains in his Spades that alludes to African masks as well as the history of slavery and conjures the sensibility of his later Bag Lady, for which he draped Senegalese-sold handbags over a classicized sculptural nude in Italy, the title emphasizing his acerbic wit. Here, the sculpture appears to be a visual pun of “pan-toting,” a common historical practice of African-American domestic workers taking leftover goods from their White employers as a form of compensation, which developed into the Black workers “re-appropriating the material assets of their employers for their use.”iii Alternating black cast-iron skillets and aged pans, Hammons presents an aesthetic know-how in the overall black, silver, and gold color scheme, suggesting a nice outfit with the necklace-like chain; at the same time, he exposes weary versos by placing them face down as if to reveal this dark history and its players.




    David Hammons, Bag Lady, 1990, installed in the exhibition Casinò Fantasma, May 24 – July 15, 1990, at Ca' Vendramin Calergi, part of the 44th Venice Biennale. Artwork: © 2021 David Hammons



    "As an artist, David Hammons expands our definition of the term with his varied and evolving practice. He is a ‘hip junk dealer’, sculptor, performer, conceptual artist, environmental sculptor, magician, philosopher, social commentator…who positions himself somewhere between Marcel Duchamp, outsider art and Arte Povera."
    —Kellie Jones




    Hammons’ virtuosic ability in investigating the origins and identity of American society through conceptual rigor channeled through seeming visual simplicity lies in the works’ “connotations and physicality,” as Kellie Jones observed. Whilst re-envisioning the functionless ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp within the context of racial realities, Hammons’s objects carry an emotive charge transcending Dadaism as poignant metaphors for the Black experience in America. It is through this lens that, as Jones expressed, “By making art from detritus and found materials, Hammons attempts to put himself on the same plane as the historically marginal and opens himself up to their canons of beauty and perseverance that sometimes translates as transformational magic.”iv



    i Kay Larson, “David Hammons,” Galerie Magazine, February/March 1991, p. 143.
    ii David Hammons, quoted in Kellie Jones, “Interview: David Hammons,” Real Life, Autumn 1986.
    iii Tera W. Hunter, To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War, Cambridge, 1997, p. 60.
    iv Kellie Jones, David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, New York, 1991, pp. 15-16.

    • Provenance

      Jack Tilton Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1990

    • Exhibited

      Atlanta, High Museum of Art; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art; Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington; New York, The BMW Gallery, Awards in the Visual Arts 8: Jo Ann Callis, Patrick T. Dougherty, James Drake, Ron Fondaw, Ed Fraga, David Hammons, Paul Kos, Erik Levine, Ann McCoy, Charles Wilson, April 25, 1989 - September 1990, p. 61 (illustrated)
      Brussels, Wiels, Unexchangable, April 19 – August 12, 2018

    • Literature

      Kay Larson, "David Hammons," Galeries Magazine, February/March 1991, p. 103 (illustrated)

    • 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. 

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Property from a Distinguished Belgian Collection



signed "Hammons" on the reverse
rubber tube, frying pans and metal chains
48 x 18 x 7 in. (121.9 x 45.7 x 17.8 cm)
Executed in 1988.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $3,660,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021