Elizabeth Peyton - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Regen Projects, Los Angeles

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Regen Projects, Elizabeth Peyton, 10 March– 7 April 2007

  • Catalogue Essay

    “When I went to Europe for the first time, it was with Rirkrit for a show he was having. People would say to me, ‘And what do you do?’ And I’d say, ‘I make paintings’. ‘What kind of paintings?’ ‘Of people’. ‘Like who?’ ‘Um, Napoleon and King Ludwig’. And they’d say [making a face], ‘Oh. How interesting’. Or people are always thinking that it’s about cute people. There are millions of cute people in the world, and very few that are beautiful.” (Elizabeth Peyton in an interview with Rob Pruitt and Steve Lafreniere, Index, 200, www.indexmagazine.com)
    Portraiture has a very long history. It has been one of the preferred genres by artists from all epochs, from ancient Rome to modern times. Hence, it is always with surprise when one happens to approach the work of an artist who, having chosen portraiture, manages to come up with an entirely new language. Elizabeth Peyton is one of these artists.

    Realized in 2007, the present work portrays Dr Scarpinato, a young man wearing a suit and sitting on a brown chair. Not much information can be found on this man, suggesting the sitter may be one of Peyton’s friends. Whether it is a pop star, a member of the royal family, or an ‘un-famous’ friend, Peyton paints each one of her subjects with the same introspection. She manages to capture an intimate moment of someone’s life and transfigure it on the canvas with the grace and, at the same time, expressive power that characterizes all her work. Without ever exposing their nudity – unlike the paintings of other ‘figurative’ artists such as Lucian Freud, Marlene Dumas or Jenny Saville – Peyton manages to disclose the vulnerability of the person she portrays. It is a psychological vulnerability rather than a physical one. In fact, her works lack the exploration into physical issues of bodies undergoing decay or deformation, but seek to deal with questions around identity.

    Organized by dealer and former artist Gavin Brown, Peyton’s first solo exhibition in New York was held in 1993 in a room of the Chelsea Hotel. To see the works – which consisted of black-and-white drawings of Napoleon, Oscar Wilde and other historical figures such King Ludwig II of Bavaria – people had to ask for the room key at reception. Curiously, this set the mood for following exhibitions which were held in an apartment in Cologne and at The Prince Albert, a South London bar. Although she is now exhibiting in commercial galleries, Peyton never lost her interest in public participation and in conveying a sense a reality in all her portraits. Her subjects are always portrayed in an intimate environment, be that a bedroom or a studio, and are not devoid of that melancholic touch which expresses all the love she has for each one of them.

    In his ‘ouverture’ for the Chelsea Hotel show, Meicost Ettal – a pseudonym for Gavin Brown – wrote: “What else have these pictures been witness to in this sad little room, watching time pass here, pondering their own exquisite ennui?” (Meicost Ettal, ‘Ouverture: Elizabeth Peyton’, November 1994, in Elizabeth Peyton, New York, 2005, p. 36).

    Elizabeth Peyton’s portraits are imbued with a magical quality, the power to freeze a moment in one’s life into eternity. Staring at Dr Scarpinato, we cannot help but think about how many curious strangers that elegant man must have seen passing by. While sitting in his chair, he acts both at the subject and the object. He is seeing and being seen at the same time, witness of personal narratives that will never be told.


Dr. Scarpinato (Vincent)

oil on medium-density fibreboard
30.5 x 22.9 cm (12 x 9 in)
Signed, titled and dated ‘Dr. Scarpinato (Vincent) 2007 Elizabeth Peyton’ on the reverse.

£120,000 - 180,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013