Doron Langberg - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips

    "Intimacy and closeness are at the centre of my practice. Whether it’s a portrait of a friend or depictions of a couple in bed, I want to express the multivalent and complex nature of relationships, highlighting our connectedness to one another."
    —Doron Langberg
    Executed in 2018 and included in the group exhibition Zig Zag Zig with New York’s DC Moore Gallery in the same year, Nir and Zach is a tender scene of intimacy and domestic quietude by young Brooklyn-based artist Doron Langberg. Depicted in a moment of calm repose, the two figures find themselves comfortably alone, together, Nir sitting back against the shelves, absorbed by the book on his lap as Zach sleeps deeply, gently curled beneath a patterned throw. Soaked in warm washes of rich colour, the painting’s inviting, soporific glow blurs the boundaries between material reality and memory, charging the work with emotional and psychological depth as the boundaries between interiority and environment blur and melt into one another.

    Close friends of the artist, Zach and Nir belong to a recurring cast of characters around whom Langberg builds his luminous and tender studies of contemporary queer community and intimacy. Although also known for his more explicit compositions celebrating the physicality of the body, desire, and the electrifying charge of the sexual encounter, Langberg here extends his attention to the deeper and more nuanced emotional complexities that come with intimate relationships.


    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Le Lit (The Bed), 1892, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

    As in the more tender portraits of backstage life that feature in Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s studies of the ballet and the brothel, Langberg’s painting demonstrates an emotionally sophisticated understanding of desire and touch, and of the complex relationships played out between physicality, closeness, and vulnerability. As the artist explains, while ‘using a sexual image can be a powerful vehicle’ for exploring emotional depth, an expansion of these terms has allowed him to develop ‘a fuller understanding of what intimacy is, and […] how more complex emotions can find homes in different imagery.’i


    Contemporary Intimism

    "In my work, the starting point is the world: my relationship with a person, something I saw, or an experience I had. Then it goes deeper and deeper into a painting world, which translates our phenomenological experiences into something that can only happen in painting language."
    —Doron Langberg
    Delighting in the pleasures of touch and great finding beauty in the quotidian, Langberg’s paintings create a space for what some have dubbed a new ‘Queer Intimism’, a contemporary revival of the late 19th century French Intimism pioneered by the likes of Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Learning from Impressionism’s interest in capturing the fleeting sensation, the Intimistes shifted their focus from the landscape and sites of new metropolitan modernity to the interior, elevating moments of everyday domestic simplicity and sociability as vessels for emotional interiority and psychological directness.

    Often set in domestic spaces focused on the emotional currents passing between people, places, and objects, Langberg’s chromatically brilliant and highly painterly compositions certainly nod to these art historical reference points. Recalling his first encounter with these artists as a student coming to America for the first time, Langberg explains: ‘The colour, dappled paint handling, and play between flatness and depth were very inspiring for me. I was so taken by how an everyday scene, like a family sitting around, a loved one taking a bath, or a still life, can hold such emotional intensity.’ii

    Left: Pierre Bonnard, Woman with Dog, 1891, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Image: Bridgeman Images
    Right: Detail of the present work 

    Harnessing this same, empathetic power, Langberg develops the pictorial language of Bonnard in his dissolving washes of vibrant colour, flattened, sinuous sense of line, and highly attuned sensitivity to pattern, a strategy that he would continue to develop in the works produced for his first solo show with Victoria Miro in London in 2021. Especially legible in the rippling folds of the blanket here, Langberg flattens these pictorial elements to the appearance of cut outs, stacking patterned passages atop one another, emphasising the shallow picture space and intensifying its emotive charge. As in Bonnard’s compositions, Nir and Zach anchors these more abstracted elements in domestic details: a book cast casually at Nir’s feet, the rippling surface of the blanket, and the everyday objects arranged on a small side table.

    Adopting the pictorial language of 19th century Intimism, Langberg has built a body of work that magnifies everyday life and queer domesticity, examining vulnerability, intimacy, and sociability through his virtuoso painterly treatment. Inviting us in to these interiors, Langberg also offers us an insight into his own emotional world, a generous and tender act from one of his generation’s most promising young painters.


    The Seller will be donating a proportion of the proceeds of sale of Nir and Zach to La Leonera, a charitable project from Fundacion Casa Santa Ana.


    Doron Langberg discusses his painting Bather and the dialogue his works generate with French Intimiste Pierre Bonnard. 


    Collector’s Digest 

    • Currently based in New York, in 2011 Langberg was awarded the Schoelkopf Travel Prize at Yale University, where he graduated with an MFA in 2012.

    • Since his graduation, he has exhibited at a range of galleries in New York and beyond, opening his first solo exhibition in London, Give Me Love with Victoria Miro in 2021.

    • More recently, the artist has contributed work to the Frick Collection’s year-long project Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters, where a portrait by the artist was installed with Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Sir Thomas More. In direct dialogue with Pierre Bonnard’s portraits of Marthe in the bath, Langberg’s stunning Bather now belongs to the permanent collection of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston, where it was recently unveiled as part of the group show A Place For Me: Figurative Painting Now. 

    i Doron Langberg, ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It: Gaby Collins-Fernandez & Doron Langberg with Jarrett Earnest’, Brooklyn Rail, Nov 2015, online
    ii Doron Langberg, quoted in Rebecca Martin, ‘Doron Langberg – Intimate Interiors’, Metal Magazine, online

    • Provenance

      DC Moore Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, DC Moore Gallery, ZIG ZAG ZIG, 21 June – 10 August 2018


Nir and Zach

signed with the artist’s initials and dated ‘D.L. 18’’ on the overlap
oil on linen
243.8 x 203.2 cm (96 x 80 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £378,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

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Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022