Donald Judd - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Monday, December 7, 2020 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • The very first example of Donald Judd’s large-scale “bullnose” wall progressions, untitled (DSS 70) was created during a pivotal moment in the artist’s career-long investigation of positive and negative space. Coalescing the industrial material of galvanized iron with a scintillating, elegant surface, these “progressions”—in which each projection becomes longer and the space between them shrinks—would become one of Judd’s most well-known forms and revolutionized Minimalism and post-war art history. 

    "[Red] has the right value for a three-dimensional object. If you paint something black or any dark color, you can’t tell what its edges are like. Red seems to be the only color that really makes an object sharp and defines its contours and angles." 
    — Donald Judd
    untitled specifically represents the culmination of the artist’s development of the iconic “bullnose” progression, building on the form of a wood prototype from a year prior and a smaller galvanized iron example earlier in 1965. Executed in 1965, this piece of history was first part of Leo Castelli’s own collection, and has been owned by the same important private collector for almost three decades.


    The Bullnose


    Although Judd began his career as a painter, he struggled to cleanse his art from the customs which he considered the grime of art history: composition, illusion, anthropomorphism, oil paint, the flat canvas. After some initial experiments with sculpture in 1961 and 1962, Judd began searching for a unique form that would encapsulate his radical philosophy about the nature of space and art—which came to him in 1964 in the shape of his first wall progression. Composed of red lacquer on wood, untitled (DSS 45) was executed in what would become known as his “bullnose” style, and though not entirely representative of Judd’s mechanical trajectory, it showed hints of his signature approach. It was at this point that the artist abandoned painting altogether, shifting his focus entirely to three-dimensionality and sculpture, the medium that would preoccupy him for the rest of his oeuvre. “Because the nature of three dimensions isn’t set, given beforehand,” the artist wrote, “something credible can be made, almost anything.”i


    The artist translated this prototype into galvanized iron for one example of untitled (DSS 67), a small form only 25 ½ inches long, the following year, on June 22, 1965. Judd did not immediately sell or exhibit DSS 67, and likely was actively referring to it exactly five months later, when on November 22, 1965, Judd returned to this form and executed his first large-scale bullnose—the present work. 

    "Because the nature of three dimensions isn’t set, given beforehand, something credible can be made, almost anything."
    — Donald Judd

    Finally able to articulate his breakthrough form in a fuller size—over double the width of the prototype and DSS 67—it would be this exact example that he would select to include in several exhibitions over the next couple years as representative of the inroads he was making in sculpture: the seminal 7 Sculptors at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1965-1966; Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure, Finch College Museum of Art, New York in 1966; Sculpture: New York Scene, Riverside Museum, New York in 1967; and a group exhibition at Bykert Gallery in 1967. Other examples from this form were shown in Judd’s most important museum exhibitions of the 1960s—the one now house in The Museum Ulm (example 3) was included in his landmark 1968 show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and The Saint Louis Art Museum’s (example 5) was in the artist’s 1971 Pasadena Art Museum exhibition.


    The present work installed in Art in Process: the Visual Development of a Structure, Finch College Museum of Art, 1966. Artwork © 2020 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    The present work installed in Art in Process: the Visual Development of a Structure, Finch College Museum of Art, 1966. Artwork © 2020 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Indexing this specific structure and progression, “bullnose” is reference to a specific type of chisel with a rounded head—an analogy to a practical tool that no doubt appealed to Judd’s predilection for industrial machinery. Even the sizes of the projections follow a precise mathematical order, increasing arithmetically by one-and-a-half inches with the spaces between them matching the protrusions in the reverse order–the same formula he used in all of his works of this form. The artist went on to produce numerous other bullnoses well into the 1970s, and it would become one of his most iconic forms; this style of progressions can be found in myriad colors, materials, and sizes in museums around the world.

  • Judd’s Bullnoses in Museum Collections

  • The Power of Red


    A master at wielding color so efficiently in a regard only rivaled by Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, Judd executed the present work in red lacquer. One of his favorite shades, he often employed red because he considered the color to be without reference to figuration. He also appreciated its ability to articulate every detail of the object it defined, which he understood to be a quality unique to red: “[Red] has the right value for a three-dimensional object. If you paint something black or any dark color, you can’t tell what its edges are like. Red seems to be the only color that really makes an object sharp and defines its contours and angles.”ii 


    Piet Mondrian, Composition 2, with Red, Black, Blue, and Yellow, 1929. National Museum, Belgrade, Photo credit: SCALA / Art Resource, NY
    In his 1993 essay, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular,” Judd recalls a declaration written by Spanish Expressionist painter Johannes Itten: “‘Form is also color. Without color there is no form. Form and color are one…’ It never occurred to me to make a three-dimensional work without color… Color is like material. It is one way or another, but it obdurately exists,” Judd asserted. “No immediate feeling can be attributed to color. Nothing can be identified…If there were an identifiable feeling to red or to red…[it] would not be useable to me. Color, like material, is what art is made from.”iii  


    Embracing the Industrial


    As his practice evolved, Judd increasingly sought out industrial materials for their pliability and anonymity—the very antithesis of the glorification of the artist’s hand perpetuated by Abstract Expressionists. In 1964, he first commissioned The Bernstein Brothers, a metal-working shop in New York, to cover his sculptures in galvanized iron, as exemplified in the present work. Unlike other metals, galvanized iron has an almost painterly quality due to its raw, marbled surface, yet – crucially for Judd’s purposes – its metal structure prevents the viewer from approaching the work with prefixed artistic connotations. The clarity and simplicity of industrial material is characteristic to Judd’s emphasis on object itself as art—he believed the truth of art to be free from Western pictorial illusionism. Thus, he wanted his objects to be heterogeneous enough to express a unity indifferent to custom or tradition, yet indicative of a larger truth about human experience and phenomenology.


    Despite its clarity and precision, untitled prompts perceptual questions concerning its arrangement and composition. At first glance, the object’s smooth metal surface makes it appear to be a solid, bar-like construction incapable of hovering against a wall, but closer investigation reveals it to be hollow and light. As David Raskin elucidated, “Art like Judd’s successfully exposed the drawback of trusting sensations to provide understanding, since it proved that there could never be direct sensory access to reality, which instead waited to be discovered by other analytical means.”iv 


    A Sense of Order

    "The sense of objects occurs with forms that are near some simple, basic, profound forms you feel. These disappear when you try to make them into imaginable visual or tactile forms. The reference to objects gives them a way to occur." 
    — Donald Judd


    This proportional complexity becomes evident in the mathematical spacing of ten units in untitled, which is dominated by semicircular contours protruding out of a rectilinear prism. The mathematical formula that orders the work creates an emotionally and intellectually satisfying sense of unity; like seeing a golden mean in nature, the arithmetic in Judd’s sculpture constitutes a philosophical statement on how and why we find art beautiful in the first place. Yet this apparent assertion of pragmatism and order creates further visual puzzles, since the divergence in spacing means that it is rarely possible to predict the appearance of the whole work from any given side viewpoint of the sculpture. These optical illusions prove that “reality” is always filtered through the senses, that “meaning… is unintelligible apart from … the semiological conventions of the public space.”v Balancing an uncompromising material honesty with a maddening ambiguity, untitled represents the absolute vanguard of radical post-war sculpture.


    i Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” 1965 in Donald Judd: The Complete Writings, 1959-1975, New York, 2015, p. 184.
    ii Donald Judd, "Don Judd: An Interview with John Coplans," in Don Judd, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1971, p. 25.
    iii Donald Judd, “Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular,” 1993, in ed. Dietmar Elger, Donald Judd: Colorist, exh. cat., Sprengel Museum Hannover, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2000, pp. 110-114.
    iv David Raskin, “Judd’s Moral Art,” Donald Judd, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2004, p. 80.
    v Rosalind Kraus, “Sense and Sensibility: Reflections on Post ‘60s Sculpture,” Artforum, vol. 12, no. 3, November 1973, p. 47.

    • Provenance

      Collection of Leo Castelli, New York
      Peder Bonnier, New York
      Vivian Horan Fine Art, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1993

    • Exhibited

      Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 7 Sculptors, December 3, 1965 - January 17, 1966, p. 17 (early version exhibited)
      New York, Finch College Museum of Art/Contemporary Study Wing, Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure, May 11 - June 30, 1966, n.p. (early version exhibited)
      New York, Riverside Museum, Sculpture: New York Scene, March 12 - June 4, 1967 (early version exhibited)
      New York, Bykert Gallery, Group Exhibition, October 7 - November 1, 1967 (early version exhibited)
      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Don Judd, February 27 - March 24, 1968, p. 33 (example number 3 exhibited and illustrated, p. 32)
      Ridgefield, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Art of the 60’s: Selections from the Collection of Hanford Yang, September 29 - December 22, 1968, no. 35, n.p. (example number 4 exhibited and illustrated)
      Pasadena Art Museum, Don Judd, May 11 - July 4, 1971, pl. 32, no. 26, p. 66 (example number 5 exhibited and illustrated, p. 54)
      Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum; Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; ARC/Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris; Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró; Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Donald Judd: Sculptures 1965-1987, April 26, 1987 - September 30, 1988, no. 10, p. 86 (example number 3 exhibited and illustrated, n.p.)
      Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993, May 8 - July 25, 1993 (example number 4 exhibited)
      Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Revolution: Art of the Sixties from Warhol to Beuys, September 30 - December 10, 1995 (example number 4 exhibited)
      Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stiftung Froehlich Sammlungsblöcke, September 28 - November 24, 1996 (example number 4 exhibited)
      London, Tate Gallery, New Displays 1999: Donald Judd and Cy Twombly: Loans from the Froelich Collection, 1999 (example number 4 exhibited)
      Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst, Minimal Art aus den privaten Sammlungen im Museum für Neue Kunst, March 17 - April 29, 2001 (example number 4 exhibited)
      Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Houston, The Menil Collection, Donald Judd. The Early Work 1955-1968, May 5, 2002 - April 27, 2003, no. 133, n.p. (example number 4 exhibited and illustrated)
      London, Tate Modern, Donald Judd, February 5 – April 25, 2004 (example number 4 exhibited)
      Saint Louis Art Museum, Minimal Art From Saint Louis Collections, August 26, 2005 - July 23, 2006 (example number 5 exhibited)
      Saint Louis Art Museum, A New View: Contemporary Art, 2013 (example number 5 exhibited)
      New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Kenneth Noland. A Dialogue, April 5 - June 30, 2016 (example number 2 exhibited)

    • Literature

      Mel Bochner, "Art in Process—Structures", Arts Magazine, September-October 1966 (Finch College Museum of Art, 1966, installation view illustrated)
      Dudley Del Balso, Roberta Smith and Brydon Smith, Donald Judd: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Objects and Wood-Blocks 1960-1974, Ottawa, 1975, no. 70, pp. 131-132 (another example 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.

      View More Works

Property from a Midwestern Private Collection



red lacquer on galvanized iron
5 x 69 1/8 x 8 5/8 in. (12.7 x 175.6 x 21.9 cm)
Executed in 1965 and refabricated in 1969, this work is the first bullnose of 7 unique examples fabricated between 1965-1970.

Other examples are housed in the permanent collections of The Museum Ulm (example number 3) and The Saint Louis Art Museum (example number 5).

Full Cataloguing

$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for $3,539,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278 


20th c. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 7 December 2020