Donald Judd - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | Phillips

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  • “It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.”
    —Donald Judd
    In the final years of Donald Judd’s life, he executed a significant body of work made of Cor-ten steel. Emblematic of his predilection for industrial media and processes, this chapter of his oeuvre marked the culmination of nearly 30 years of artmaking and highlighted the material and spatial adroitness for which he is celebrated among the most pioneering artists of the 20th century. The rare Cor-ten works showcased the evocative power of Judd’s mature approach, exemplifying the commitment to tangibility, precision, and the inherent qualities of perception that characterized his entire career. One of Judd’s final works, Untitled was executed just before the artist’s death from cancer in February 1994. The present work is remarkable for its extension of his use of Cor-ten to his most iconic format—the stack. 


    These six vertical units of weathering steel and black Plexiglas produce a dynamic interplay: the qualities of each distinctive material draw the viewer’s eye between roughness and smoothness, opacity and transparency, and sturdiness and ethereality. Steel dividers further divert our gaze, separating each unit into four evenly sized boxes. A testament to the artist’s innovative exploration of space and form, Untitled epitomizes the hallmarks of Judd's interrogation of the nature of objecthood.


    Barnett Newman, Broken Obelisk, 1963-69. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 Barnett Newman Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The use of Cor-ten in the present work is indicative of Judd’s continued experimentation with new media until the end of his life. Before Judd began using the material in earnest in 1989, he employed it for a few site-specific works and outdoor commissions. He was attracted to the substance’s industrial connotations: Cor-ten is a popular trademark name for weathering steel, which was initially developed for train cars carrying coal. The alloy forms a durable rust coating when exposed to natural elements, which shields it from corrosion caused by wet coal and eliminates the necessity of an additional layer of paint. Its durability and distinctive red-brown patina made it the preferred medium for a few other post-war sculptors, notably Barnett Newman—who utilized it in his famous sculpture Broken Obelisk, 1963–1969, Museum of Modern Art, New Yorkand Judd’s close friend, Richard Serra. In fact, Judd once remarked that he initially avoided Cor-ten as it was “Richard’s material,” but later “I realized it was just a material, and how I would use it would be different from how Richard used it.”i Captivated by its velvety-red surface, which he could use to illuminate the relationship between surface, color and volume, Judd continued to develop his approach to the medium until his death—with Untitled symbolizing one of its final manifestations in his oeuvre. 


    Louise Nevelson, Atmosphere and Environment X. 1969-70. The John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection, Princeton University. Image: Princeton University Art Museum / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 Estate of Louise Nevelson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    This work also reflected the artist’s transitioning production process towards the end of his career. Looking to centralize fabrication of his artworks and furniture near his home and studio in Marfa, Texas, where he had resided since 1973, he opened a metalworking shop in an abandoned ice factory in 1988. Judd named it El Taller Chihuahuense (“The Chihuahuan Workshop”), inspired by the Chihuahuan Desert surrounding Marfa, and hired local welders to assist in the production of his Cor-ten objects—including Raul Hernandez, who fabricated the present work. As his output had been increasingly produced in Switzerland, the ability to create Cor-ten works locally enabled the artist to explore the medium quickly and to an unprecedented degree. El Taller Chihuahuense functioned as a small operation, solely dedicated to the production and revision of Judd’s conceptions. As such, its proximity to his residence and ease of fabrication marked the closest Judd would ever return to a traditional studio environment since the 1960s.


    Untitled also signified the conclusion of his stacks, a format the artist had been experimenting with since 1965. Embodying Judd’s radical redefinition of objecthood, the stack realized his intention to integrate space, color, and form as the fundamental building blocks of artmaking. As with the present example, these stacks are installed to ensure that the interval between each unit equals their volume—establishing a staccato rhythm that de-stabilizes the binary between positive and negative space. Cantilevered off the wall, these boxes appear to float like paintings; the absence of a base or podium allowed them to elude many of the illusionistic conventions commonly associated with sculpture. This format allowed Judd to achieve an unforeseen approach to abstraction that transcended the medium’s conventional structural limits. Captivated by the stacks design for the rest of his life, he continued experimenting with subtle variations in color, size, and material for nearly three decades, an exercise which culminated in the Cor-ten steel examples. “I’m interested in ideas I can work with,” Judd elucidated, “and the stack proved to have a lot of possibilities.”ii


    Richard Serra, Kitty Hawk, 1983. Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York. Image: Buffalo AKG Art Museum / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 Richard Serra / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Through his entire corpus, Judd aimed to create self-referential artworks rooted in an uncompromising integrity of material and color. The innate physical characteristics of media were a central element of the artist’s compositions, foregrounding their specificity and phenomenological value. His ability to skillfully harness the implicit aesthetic possibilities of these seemingly utilitarian materials—iron, steel, Plexiglas—betrayed an acute eye for materiality. “A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself,” Judd wrote in 1968. “It shouldn't be concealed as part of a fairly different whole.”iii The distinctive and tactile surface of Cor-ten provided the artist with a new means of approaching the themes fundamental to his practice. Among Judd’s final masterworks, Untitled is a power expression of Judd’s signature aesthetic, which stand as a cornerstone of post-war American art.


    Donald Judd, quoted in Julie Baumgardner, “Judd’s Late Cor-ten Works: Evolutionary or Unchanging?,” Art in America, December 17, 2015, online.

    ii Donald Judd, quoted in John Coplans, “An Interview with Donald Judd,” Artforum, June 1971, online.

    iii Donald Judd, "Statement" (1968), in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959–1975, New York, 2005, p. 196.

    • Provenance

      Estate of Donald Judd
      PaceWildenstein, New York
      Private Collection
      David Zwirner, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, Donald Judd: The Moscow Installation, March 5–May 21, 1994, pp. 48-49, 51 (illustrated, p. 49; installation view illustrated, p. 51)
      New York, PaceWildenstein, Donald Judd: Sculpture, September 16–October 15, 1994, pp. 24-25, 29 (illustrated, p. 25)
      New York, PaceWildenstein, Donald Judd: Late Work, October 27–November 25, 2000, no. 70, n.p. (illustrated)
      New York, PaceWildenstein, Josef Albers/Donald Judd: Form and Color, January 26–February 24, 2007, pp. 47, 81 (illustrated, p. 47)
      Hong Kong, David Zwirner, Flavin, Judd, McCracken, Sandback, November 15–December 21, 2018
      New York, David Zwirner, Donald Judd: Artworks: 1970-1994, November 5–December 12, 2020, pp. 104-112, 281 (illustrated, pp. 105, 112; detail illustrated, pp. 106-111)

    • Literature

      Carol Kino, "Donald Judd, Pace Wildenstein," ARTnews, vol. 93, no. 10, December 1994, p. 136
      Lily Wei, "Donald Judd at Pace Wildenstein," Art in America, vol. 82, no. 12, December 1994, p. 93
      Judd / Malevich, exh. cat., Galerie Gmurzynska, Zürich, 2017, p. 101 (Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne, 1994, installation view illustrated)
      Abigail Cain, "Donald Judd’s Son Reimagines a Show His Father Conceived Two Decades Ago," Artsy, June 22, 2017, online (illustrated)

    • 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.

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Property from a Prestigious Collection



each inscribed and dated “94-1 A-F Judd By: HERNANDEZ” on the reverse
Cor-ten steel and black Plexiglas, in 6 parts
each 9 7/8 x 39 3/8 x 9 7/8 in. (25.1 x 100 x 25.1 cm)
installation dimensions 118 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 9 7/8 in. (301 x 100 x 25.1 cm)

Executed in 1994.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,722,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 May 2024