Untitled

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  • Provenance

    Jan Hoet, Ghent (acquired directly from the artist)
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Mullem; Huise; Wannegem; Lede, PASS - Kunst in dorpen, 1 May - 5 July 2015, pp. 100-101 (illustrated, p. 101)
    Brussels, WIELS, Unexchangeable, 19 April - 12 August 2018, p. 84 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since emerging onto the American art scene in the 1960’s, David Hammons has played an integral role in the continuing dialogue of conceptual art and sculpture. The present work, Untitled, constructed from wire mesh, zipper sliders and wood, forms part of the artist’s relentless and incisive experimentation with found objects and assemblage. In 1991, the year prior to the execution of this work, Hammons had formed a close friendship with the Belgian art historian and then curator of Documenta IX, Jan Hoet. Although Hammons was sceptical towards the conservatism of the art establishment, both he and Hoet shared an anti-materialist outlook and a mutual belief in the powerful communicative capabilities of art. Hoet sought to reconfigure the established conventions of the 1992 Documenta; the theme of ‘displacement’ was used as a leitmotif throughout the exhibition, as Hoet put forward his belief in the purpose of contemporary art to provide an authentic, subjective experience. Executing and exhibiting Untitled at Documenta IX, a room-size sculpture comprised of hair, stones, fabric, copper and wire now housed in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Hammons created the present work in the same year, which was subsequently gifted to Hoet. Hammons’ practice, with its investigation into the themes of identity and language, and usage of ephemera and abject materials, struck a resonant chord with Hoet and the two remained firm friends until the end of Hoet’s life. Passion and deep admiration were the driving force behind Hoet’s support of Hammons’ work and the present work formed an integral part of his collection. As his son described during an interview in 2016, ‘It was a collection that was built up because of the very close relationships he had with artists’. (Ann Binlot, ‘A Curator’s Collection, Revealed’, Document Journal, 16 April 2016, online).

    Untitled, exhibited at Wiels, Brussels, in 2018, serves as a biting sartorial comment on the traditional art historical cannon and establishment, an establishment which has traditionally only provided a platform for selected voices; Hammons' work introduces a new dialogue to conceptual art. Poking fun at the modernism of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, retrieved from the junkyard, is now punctured with zips and stripped of its colourful geometry. In a Duchampian gesture, Hammons ‘messes’ with the indexical signs latent within everyday objects. Integrating feathers, metal, cigarettes, clothes and discarded food, Hammons’ sculptural works also serve as allegories of the underlying ‘genetic, spiritual, cultural and economic’ connections between people, and inherent within the material processes of consumption (Steve Cannon, Dale Davis, Josine Ianco-Starrels, eds., L.A. OBJECT & David Hammons Body Prints, New York, 2006, p. 126). Hammons rejected the purified forms of American Minimalism and instead, proposes an aesthetic predicated on the abandoned detritus of urban life, encompassing his experiences as an African American man in American society.

    The start of Hammons’ career coincided with a period of intense political turmoil in the United States. After the Los Angeles race riots during the 1960’s, Hammons responded to the tension through his practice, particularly evident in his progressive Body Prints series. By greasing his body, pressing up against large sheets of paper – appropriating Yves Klein’s Anthropometry paintings (c. 1960) – and covering the imprint with pigment powder, Hammons sought to re-enact the brutal arrests photographed during the violent outbreaks. Exhibited in the Tate’s 2017 critically acclaimed Soul of a Nation exhibition, David Hammons’ Injustice Case, 1970, directly addressed the violent treatment of Bobby Seale, invoking the courtroom sketch during the 1969 Chicago Eight trial of Seale. Showing his own body, bound, gagged and tied to a chair, Hammons contrasts the unjust scene with the American flag. This body of works set the tone for Hammons’ persistent artistic sedition and innovation, as, throughout the 1980’s, he became renowned for his characteristically wry public installations. These, the artist describes, were created specifically for a ‘street audience’: ‘I will play with the street audience. That audience is much more human, and their opinion is from the heart.’ (‘From An Interview with David Hammons’, Brown University, 1986, online).

    Hammons’ oeuvre is a masterful narrative on the experience of the African American community in American society, introducing his own physicality into his work as well as the debris surrounding him. Through a deft reworking of found-objects, Hammons’ sculptures assume a quasi-mystical status; soldered, glued and nailed, these extracted materials are composed into beautifully rendered structures of detritus, utilising quotidian objects which are often loaded with associative connotations. The present work thus forms a crucial part of Hammons’ highly original artistic approach and, at the same time, symbolises a pivotal relationship between innovative artist and curator, both unified in their shared motivations. As Hoet asserted, ‘A curator is an intermediary, we must communicate with the public, protect the artist, and engage with the artist’ (Tanya Kiang and Jan Hoet, ‘The Circa Interview: Jan Hoet: Ends and Means’, Circa, no. 67, Spring 1994, p. 35).

  • Artist Bio

    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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21

Untitled

signed 'Hammons' on the reverse
wire mesh, zipper sliders and wood
67.5 x 79.8 x 1.8 cm (26 5/8 x 31 3/8 x 0 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1992.

Estimate
£250,000 - 350,000 

sold for £309,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018