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  • Provenance

    Donald Judd Foundation, New York
    Christie's, New York, Select Works from the Donald Judd Foundation, May 9, 2006, lot 15
    Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Lelong, Donald Judd, September 24 - October 26, 1991

  • Literature

    Donald Judd, exh. cat., Galerie Lelong, Paris, 1991, pp. 30-31 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Donald Judd’s Untitled (4 Units; 89-49 Ballantine), 1989 is not only a characteristically pristine example of Judd’s carefully ordered forms but also represents a critical piece of visual evidence, faithfully recording Judd’s relationship with carpenter and artist Peter Ballantine, whose name is referenced in the title of the work. Peter Ballantine, residing on Greene Street just minutes away from Judd’s studio, commented on their proximity, reflecting “I used to say my place is so close to Judd, you could walk there in the rain without an umbrella.” Ballantine and Judd met in 1968 at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Studies Program, where Ballantine was studying and where Judd was giving a seminar. One year later Ballantine began doing carpentry for Judd and would eventually, over the course of 25 years, fabricate about 250 pieces for him. In 1970 Judd began working with Douglas-fir plywood—fellow Judd fabricator Jeff Jamieson would describe these high standards of excellency when he commented, “The bar was set very high for fabrication; they made perfect things. Ballantine made absolutely perfect boxes out of the marine-grade Douglas-fir.”

    Untitled (4 Units; 89-49 Ballantine), 1989 possesses the warm and tawny hue of Douglas-fir wood, emitting a luscious glow, almost akin to Judd’s brushed copper works. The four boxes stretch out across a white wall, each unique, created with exhaustive detail and thoughtful proportion. Begging to be touched, the texture of soft and supple wood also holds darkened grains which create a swirling pattern of natural movement, emphasizing nature’s ability to create patterns at random of exquisite intricacy. Each of the four open cubes has been dissected by a triangular form, of a varying angle. The volume within each cube has been altered in a singular and formulaic way; like the pattern of the wood grain, logic can be found in a series of four that could not be determined by examining one box alone.

    Though Judd did study the history of art, Ballantine believes that Judd’s study of philosophy and British empiricism at Columbia held greater significance for his artistic inspiration. Of the present lot, one unit seems empty while another may include an element dividing its interior by 1:2 or 1:4. Although the 4 units exist as a whole, each part differentiates itself from the grouping – acting at once alone and unified as part of the group. As Judd explains, “The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting." (Donald Judd in Donald Judd. White and Grey. Complete Writings, New York, 1975, p. 116)

  • Artist Biography

    Donald Judd

    American • 1928 - 1994

    Donald Judd came to critical acclaim in the 1960s with his deceptively 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, eschewing any trace of the artist’s hand. Though associated with the minimalist movement, Judd rejected the term and did not wish to confine his practice to this categorization. 

    After moving to Marfa in 1972, he began drawing plans for the Chinati Foundation, an exhibition space which opened in 1986 to showcase his objects as well as the work of other contemporary artists and is still operating today. In 2020, his revolutionary career was celebrated in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

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37

Untitled (4 Units; 89-49 Ballantine)

1989
Douglas fir plywood
19 5/8 x 39 3/8 x 19 5/8 in. (50 x 100 x 50 cm)
Stamped "JUDD / BALLANTINE" on the reverse of each element; further signed and numbered "89-49 A-D Ballantine" on the reverse of each element.

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,085,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm