Elizabeth Peyton - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, May 10, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    neugerriemschneider, Berlin
    Private Collection, New York
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, November 17, 2006, lot 132
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    By the turn of the century, American artist Elizabeth Peyton had already established herself as one of the most important portrait painters of the contemporary era. Between 1998 and 2000, the year in which the present lot was created, Peyton had 13 solo exhibitions and participated in 23 group exhibitions around the world. As Laura Hoptman recalled of her unique effect during this time period, “More than a phenomenon, her work had attained popularity, in the sense that it had penetrated the precincts of the same popular culture that she was using as a primary inspiration for her subject matter.” (Laura Hoptman, “Fin de Siècle” in Laura Hoptman, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2008, p. 231)

    While many of Peyton’s notable portraits are inspired by both famous, contemporary musicians and artists as well as prominent historical figures like Napoleon, some of the artist’s most celebrated works are the ones inspired by her own friends and loved ones. Silver Tony belongs to this personal category, which depicts Peyton’s longtime boyfriend Tony Just. After meeting Just at a party in the late 1990s, Peyton immediately began painting and drawing him, portraying him in a variety of intimate settings. As she recalled in an interview in 2005, “It really felt like I’d waited my entire life to meet Tony. He was magnetic. I wanted to look at him all the time.” (Elizabeth Peyton, quoted in Steve Lafreniere, “A Conversation with the Artist” in Matthew Higgs, et. al., Elizabeth Peyton, New York, 2005, p. 252) Peyton explained that she was drawn to Tony for his looks, which instantly reminded her of Napoleon, one of her favorite portrait subjects. In fact, shortly after they started dating the couple took a trip to France where Peyton had Tony pose in front of Fontainbleau, the last place Napoleon lived before he was exiled, and took photographs of him, which then served as the inspiration behind a series of portraits of Tony, created during the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the present lot, Peyton uses varying densities of watercolor to depict Tony’s Napoleon-inspired locks of hair, hanging in front of his eyes as he looks down in profile. Bathed in a glittery, metallic silver background painted over the entire sheet, Peyton renders Tony in an almost deity-like manner. Unlike some of the other drawings and paintings Peyton did of Tony, this work lacks any sort of indication of place, as if Peyton is depicting instead the special space that Tony occupied in her heart. As such, Silver Tony is a uniquely intimate portrait from an important period of both Peyton’s career and personal life.


Silver Tony

signed, titled and dated "silver tony 2000 Elizabeth Peyton" on the reverse
watercolor and glitter on paper
29 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. (75.9 x 56.5 cm.)
Executed in 2000.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018