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  • Provenance

    Mary Boone Gallery, New York
    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Phillips, New York, 18 May, 2000, lot 21
    The Pisces Collection, Geneva
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 11 May 2006, lot 33
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, David Salle, 5 April - 3 May 1986
    Stadt Donaueschingen, Fürstenberg Sammlungen, Ahead of the 21st Century - The Pisces Collection, June 2002 - October 2004, no. 113, pp. 154, 202 (illustrated, p. 154)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Reconciling high-art quotations with photography, sculpture, magazine cuttings, advertisements and periodicals, David Salle’s paintings masterfully challenge preconceived notions of perspective. Wide-ranging in their historical references, the artist’s compositions contain allusions to the seventeenth century Baroque; the Romanticism of Théodore Géricault; the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne and the Surrealist works of René Magritte; references which contribute to the artist’s enigmatic and hybridising style. The present work, Maid of Germany, is an exploration in disjunction and fragmentation, as Salle juxtaposes mysterious and suggestive narrative elements to create an obscure and highly elusive image.

    Crucially, Maid of Germany, is the outcome of one of Salle’s most decisive artistic investigations. Drawing on his own photographs as source imagery, the artist directly quotes himself. Having realised canonical status in the art world as part of the Pictures Generation, Salle appropriates his own photograph and re-frames it within his painterly practice. Re-working the same female figure in his earlier diptych, Géricault’s Arm, 1985 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), and pairing it with an anatomical detail from Géricault’s morgue studies of flayed limbs, the artist allows myriad art historical sources to inform his composition. Whilst the visual and cultural references Salle draws upon are varied, stylistically, Maid of Germany synthesises twentieth-century Pop Art and Surrealism. Having studied under John Baldessari as a student at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, north of Los Angeles, the Baldessarian stamp of humorous juxtaposition and incorporation of the ‘found image’, is perceptible in Salle’s opus.

    In Maid of Germany, the inclusion of outlined objects and people - an umbrella, a figure lying down and a voyeuristic man who appears with his back to the viewer - enhances the illegibility of the work, remaining consistent with Salle’s own assertion that: ‘Every painting, consciously or not, contains instructions on where to look for a way in, for what it's about. This is contained in the painting itself, but you have to know where to look’ (David Salle, quoted in Fredrick Tuten, ‘David Salle at the Edges’, Art in America, September, 1997). Sticking to his credo, the present work is confounding; the harder we look, it seems, the more dubious and multifarious Salle’s visual language becomes. The constant flux of shapes, patterns, sizes – overlays and underlays; the manipulations and snippets – creates a chaotic surface, the context of which we are not, and will never be, entirely privy.

    During the 1980’s, Salle began collaborating with the American Ballet Theatre, designing costumes and sets for a number of productions choreographed by the Karole Armitage – a dancer renowned for her experimental and esoteric arrangements. In a fruitful collaboration, Salle and Armitage investigated a plurality of styles and eras, a testament to his achievements, in 1986 two years prior to the completion of Maid of Germany, Salle received a Guggenheim fellowship for his innovative contribution to the theatrical arts. The dynamism and theatricality of Armitage’s choreography is evoked in Salle’s mixed media compositions, generated primarily by the dramatic lighting of his grisailles figures. Each body is depicted with a determined strength and poise; an outstretched tension which generates a sense of physical freedom. Yet, each figure is confined to a box – devoid of colour and rendered virtually faceless. Constructed as a diptych, Maid of Germany possesses a spiritual undertone; the hands of each nude are pressed together, as if in prayer – a pose which exacerbates the religious dimension of the work. This seems incongruous against the exposed genitalia of Salle’s right-hand figure.

    Ultimately, Salle’s stylisation delves into a deep transitive pictorial language where each seemingly unrelated image holds a unique relation to each other. Circumventing any trace of literalism in his work, Salle instead, insists on the ‘life of the imagination’. As a result, the artist bestows total autonomy unto the viewer, encouraging uninhibited and inventive interpretations of his characteristically obscure and perplexing mixed media works.


Maid of Germany

oil, acrylic and wood on printed canvas and canvas, diptych
overall 274.6 x 376.3 x 19.7 cm (108 1/8 x 148 1/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1986.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £249,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018