Donald Judd - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Donald Judd, 'Untitled', 1985

    Install view of 'Untitled', 1985 at 450 Park Avenue

  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Donald Judd, October 4 - November 1, 1986
    Bottrop, Josef Albers Museum, Donald Judd & Josef Albers: Color, Material, Space, June 29 – September 28, 2008

  • Literature

    Dietmar Elger, Donald Judd: Colorist, exh. cat., Sprengel Museum, Hannover, 2000, p. 55 (illustrated)
    Vittoria Morganti, "Espressioni di Innovazione,"Ottagono, Design Architecttura Idee, no. 187, February 2006, p. 104 (installation view, illustrated)
    "Taller de Escultor,"Architectural Digest, no. 3, Spain, May 2006, p. 219-220 ((installation view, illustrated)
    Bernard Chauveau, ed., Venet Foundation, Surenes, 2014, p. 101 (installation view, illustrated)
    "Absolument arty," Residences Decoration, October - November 2015, p. 110 (installation view, illustrated)
    "Le Paris Arty de Diane et Bernar Venet," Villas, no. 91, September 2016, n.p. (installation view, illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Color is like material. It is one way or another, but it obdurately exists.” – Judd, 1993

    A three-dimensional panorama of pure color, Donald Judd’s Untitled, 1985, is a striking early example of the artist’s series of multicolored works, created during the last decade of his life. These discrete modular wall and floor works executed largely between 1984 and 1989 were the first time Judd employed thin sheets of painted aluminum in combinations of more than two color hues at the same time. As with all wall works from this series, the present work consists of two rows of hollow, colored boxes, identical in height but varying in length, that are bolted to one another. Held in the esteemed collection of Diane Venet for over 30 years, this unique work is distinguished not only for its exceptional provenance, but also as the longest and among the most chromatically complex wall mounted pieces in the series. Demonstrating Judd’s continued fascination with the color red – cadmium red having figured as a chromatic leitmotif throughout his career – as well as his new embracing of a wide range of tonalities, these enameled boxes are paired vertically to create two-colored compositional units, ranging from blue/dark grey, black/white, traffic red/wine red, which progress sequentially according to a carefully conceived organizational principle that represents the culmination of Judd’s pursuit of an aesthetic unfettered from the illusionism of painting and sculpture.

    Although Judd’s multicolored works are now widely recognized as the culmination of his career-long investigation of color, Venet’s acquisition of Untitled shortly after its creation demonstrated a remarkable prescience and acute understanding of Judd’s practice. At that time, Diane and Bernar, the acclaimed conceptual artist, were deeply immersed in the New York art world and had forged close relationships with some of the most influential artists of that period, including Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Robert Smithson, On Kawara, and especially Donald Judd. The Venet’s support of like-minded peers resulted in an exceptional collection of largely Minimalist art, a selection of which Bernar curated in dialogue with his own sculptural work at the Venet Foundation in Le Muy in the South of France that opened to the public in 2014. Developed in close conversation with Judd over the decades, the blueprint for this vast site followed that of Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Marfa. The special place Untitled occupies within this collection becomes evident in the couple’s choice to continue living with the present work in their private residence.

    When Venet acquired the present work, Judd’s adoption of color with works such as the present one was deemed a radical departure from his established practice. Judd’s industrially-fabricated, three-dimensional “specific objects” were widely perceived as the paragon of Minimalism, which was generally considered to be characterized by an austere and impersonal aesthetic. Although color had figured as a central aspect throughout Judd’s career, “these last pieces were voluptuous in a way that nobody had ever associated with Judd’s intentions…he began, in the mid-1980s, to make multi-colored wall pieces with those bright and mellow sexy colors that he had never used before” (Rudi Fuchs, Donald Judd, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2004, p. 20).

    The unexpected burgeoning of color in Judd’s oeuvre was brought about in 1984 when the artist began working with the Swiss furniture manufacturer Lehni AG on the production of a public sculpture in Basel, hence the moniker of “Swiss pieces” for this series. Deeply influenced by both Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers’ meticulous painterly investigations of color while pursuing his commitment to standardized approaches of production, Judd utilized the RAL standard industrial chart of paint colors – cutting out the color swatches and arranging them in a specific sequence as a study for each work. Seeking to inextricably link color with material, Judd explored a new process of enameling paint on aluminum sheets that would be bent into the shape of hollow boxes, each of which measured 30cm in height and varied in 30cm, 60cm and 90cm length.

    While the color pairings in Untitled are repeated in such a way that they at first glance appear akin to a panel diptych, the ability to view the work from all angles complicates such straightforward readings. As Judd explained of the conception of these works in 1994, “In the sheet-aluminum works I wanted to use more and diverse bright colors than before... I wanted all of the colors to be present at once. I didn’t want them to combine. I wanted a multiplicity all at once that I had not known before” (Donald Judd, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular”, Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works, New Haven, 2014, p. 278). Untitled achieves that very sense of multiplicity. True to Judd’s espousal of sensory wholeness, color is here freed from traditional connotations and rendered three-dimensional – so that ultimately, as Judd postulated, “color and space occur together” (Donald Judd, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular”, Donald Judd: The Multicolored Works, New Haven, 2014, p. 275).

  • Artist Biography

    Donald Judd

    American • 1928 - 1994

    Donald Judd came to critical acclaim in the 1960s with his simple, yet revolutionary, three-dimensional floor and wall objects made from new industrial materials, such as anodized aluminum, plywood and Plexiglas, which had no precedent in the visual arts. His oeuvre is characterized by the central constitutive elements of color, material and space. Rejecting the illusionism of painting and seeking an aesthetic freed from metaphorical associations, Judd sought to explore the relationship between art object, viewer and surrounding space with his so-called "specific objects." From the outset of his three-decade-long career, Judd delegated the fabrication to specialized technicians. Though associated with the minimalist movement, Judd did not wish to confine his practice to this categorization.


    Inspired by architecture, the artist also designed and produced his own furniture, predominantly in wood, and eventually hired a diverse team of carpenters late in his career.

    View More Works

Property from the Collection of Mrs. Diane Venet



stamped with the artist's name, number, date and foundry "DONALD JUDD 85-15 LEHNI AG SWITZERLAND" on the reverse
painted aluminum, in 2 parts
left 11 7/8 x 94 1/2 x 11 7/8 in. (30.2 x 240 x 30.2 cm.)
right 11 7/8 x 82 3/4 x 11 7/8 in. (30.2 x 210.2 x 30.2 cm.)
overall 11 7/8 x 177 1/4 x 11 7/8 in. (30.2 x 450.2 x 30.2 cm.)

Executed in 1985.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $2,655,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018