David Hammons - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Salon 94, New York
    L & M Arts, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    David Hammons’s art is complex to categorise: using resources that differ from the norm, he has experimented with materials such as wine, elephant dung, chicken bones and Kool-aid. The use of ‘low-grade’ materials can be understood in reference to Arte Povera, an acknowledged source for his inspiration, but also aim to explore the relationship between materials, images and their meaning. Untitled (Kool-Aid) forms part of the artist’s Kool-aid series. Having been described as ‘candy-coloured Rothkos’, the images are explorations of colour that dissolve an expansive palette onto a drink-powder saturated page.

    Executed using colour selections that evoke the American Abstract Expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning, the gestural canvases are sumptuous and vibrantly powerful. Untitled (Kool-Aid) uses a staining technique to achieve a large-scale blend of intricate and interactive patterns, unavailable in the use of traditional media. This strategy attributes a surreal, almost magical quality to his paintings that leans towards a sense of the mythical and ethereal. Untitled (Kool-Aid) matches theory with subject matter in the amalgamation of earthy, aqueous and chemical. Hammons manages to pair the natural with the artificial in a harmonious, fluid progression, dispersion and integration of pigments. Rather than sticking to convention, these works intentionally tease his viewers. His long-established control over the public constantly blurs the boundaries between the ironic and the sincere and finds notoriety in evasion. In response to a modern society where art has become too readily accessible, Hammons re-establishes the artist’s role as overseer by re-injecting his art with a sense of ceremony, challenging the viewer’s expectations and adapting their subsequent approach and perception. 'The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience?' (David Hammons, 1986)

    In the exploit of unusual substances to achieve specific, unique colour results, the artist includes himself in the twentieth century movement that challenged the conventional use of colour. Drawing inspiration from works such as the blood series by Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol’s urine canvases, he has succeeded in the development of the unpredictable and the provocative resource. In response to the increasingly commoditized status of art, Hammons has returned to and yet re-invented the concept of the collaboration with nature. His use of a man-made yet comestible substance challenges the standardisation of art against origin whilst still remaining contemporary and pertinent.

    Hammons is renowned for his manner of reticence; maintaining a steady distance from the conventional art-world hype and propaganda. This absence can be easily interpreted as a carefully staged form of participation. Understanding his stance as a performance in itself transforms his talent into a form of asceticism that creates an increased curiosity and awareness for his rare exhibitions and commercially available artworks. 'I feel that my art relates to my total environment. Although I am involved with communicating with others, I believe that my art itself is really my statement. For me it has to be.' (David Hammons, 1970) There is a beguiling ambiguity in this oeuvre that both shapes the viewer’s perception of the work and encapsulates an open-ended poetry of form and possibility. Untitled (Kool-Aid) merges the existence of an aesthetically beautiful work with the possibility of underlying obscurity. The novelty of the technique along with the mystery of the painting’s subject and form seamlessly merge to create an unexpected and relentlessly intriguing lot.

  • Artist Biography

    David Hammons

    American • 1943

    David Hammons eschews the spotlight and rebels against the conventions of the art world. Hammons’s diverse body of work, spanning conceptual, performance, and installation art, is 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. 

    Hammons doesn't work in any consistent medium or using any formal or academic theory—he famously has said, "I can't stand art actually." Still, with his Duchamp-ian readymades re-envisioned for a contemporary political context, Hammons remains one of contemporary art's most watched artists. Untitleda basketball hoop with dangling candelabra, achieved $8 million at Phillips in 2013, the world auction record for the artist. 

    View More Works


Untitled (Kool-Aid)

Kool-Aid powdered drink on paper with silk curtain, in artist's frame
125.4 x 87.9 cm (49 3/8 x 34 5/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'Hammons 07' on the reverse. Stamped 'PROOF-OF-PURCHASE VITAMIN C' lower right.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £122,500

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm