David Salle - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, David Salle, March 21 - May 4, 1991, pl. 5, n.p. (illustrated)
    London, Skarstedt, Cindy Sherman David Salle: History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings, October 1 - November 26, 2016, pp. 7, 19-21, 54-57, 67, 76, 88, 90 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The tapestry paintings…were a culmination. They have an energy, an invention, a kind of gorgeousness, and an atmosphere of success, of having pulled something off against heavy odds, that set them apart from Salle’s other works.” – Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker, June 1994

    A riotous expanse of color, depth, texture, and form, Nadar’s Grey, 1990, belongs to one of David Salle’s most accomplished bodies of work, the Tapestry Paintings. While marking a new maturity in his oeuvre, this monumental composition embodies Salle’s distinct visual language and is a testament to his decisive role in the artistic developments of the 1980s. Salle was among the vanguard artists of his generation who reacted against the cool rationalism of Conceptualism and Minimalism. While incorporating the techniques and ideologies of the contemporaneous Neo-Expressionist painters and Pictures Generation artists, Salle developed his own inimitable style.

    Nadar’s Grey belongs to a particularly prolific period for Salle, during which his continued explorations into sculpture, theater, film, and black-and-white photography, informed the evolution of his painterly style. The pictorial backdrops of his Tapestry Paintings derive from sixteenth and seventeenth century tapestries, as well as modern copies by a Russian tapestry-maker, whose work Salle discovered in a magazine. Delicately tinted and deliberately rococo, these rhythmic backgrounds luminesce like cinematic screens. The background of Nadar’s Grey is saturated with figures collaged in an undefinable space. Draped in togas and exhibiting chiseled muscles rendered in careful chiaroscuro, the anonymous figures resemble classical sculptures – their figures set in motion by a rhythmic force. This theatrical pastiche of dancing bodily forms establishes a spatial cadence – an undulating grey background, from which sparkling, disparate forms emerge.

    While the grand scale of the canvas references the monumental proportions of historical tapestries, the cacophony of motifs eschews the narrative tendencies inherent to their source material. Emerging from the embroidered grey background, the conglomerate of visual cues provides endless points of entry, inviting the viewer into the fabric of the painting. Weaving through the composition, the viewer discovers African masks, phallic forms, and outlines of chairs and a fan. A pair of smaller canvases are set within the composition – their emphasis of light and shadow reminding the viewer that their subjects derive from black-and-white photographs. One of a nude, dark haired woman holding a wooden mannequin and the other of a headless harlequin, the grisaille renderings appear as windows into private worlds – intimate snapshots, quietly existing within the larger composition. Blue and orange speech bubbles hover in the foreground, teasing at a train of thought. As the viewer attempts to decipher the link between the collaged images, the emptiness of the speech bubbles thwarts any narrative conclusions.

    Of his artistic practice, Salle explains, “Sometimes I think of myself like an orchestrator, working with this palette of sounds. I think about instrumentation in composition. A composer writes a melodic line, let’s say. And then he must think about what instruments can express that line, at what tempo and timbre, etc. Certain composers have a gift for orchestration.” (David Salle, quoted in Emily Nathan, “David Salle: Don’t Understand Me Too Quickly,” artnet Magazine, 2011, online) Nadar’s Grey is a testament to Salle’s unparalleled compositional instinct – the seemingly disparate motifs at once resist and harmonize with one another, like instruments expressing the same melodic line. Meaning hovers over the composition, but never sticks, as the velocity of the surface never settles. Nadar’s Grey remains tantalizingly elusive – its unprecedented gestalt offering perpetually shifting perspectives.


Nadar's Grey

acrylic and oil on canvas, with two inserted panels
84 x 114 in. (213.4 x 289.6 cm.)
Executed in 1990.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $495,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018