Elizabeth Peyton - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Elizabeth Peyton, 'Evan Recording', Lot 41

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
    Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 1998)
    Mary Boone Gallery, New York
    Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2007, lot 110
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Colliding intimacy, sensuality and rêverie – three synaesthetic themes that underpin Elizabeth Peyton’s oeuvre – Evan Recording, 1997, is a prodigious portrait that the artist painted in the early days of her success. That same year, Peyton had her first solo exhibition in a major public institution, the St. Louis Art Museum; a year later, she would have thirteen solo exhibitions until the close of the millenium. ‘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’, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, p. 231). Having enjoyed increased spotlight and attention over the decades, Peyton’s upcoming solo show at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from October 2019 to January 2020, will mark the very first time that an artist is given the run of the entire museum, with a selection of her portraits dispersed throughout the permanent collection.

    Tinged with bright colours, - crimson reds, intense purples and navy blues - Evan Recording is emblematic of Peyton’s work, which has continuously revolved around the representation of cultural icons and friends, in typically small or intimate scales. Her subjects – who in 1997, included Lady Diana, Prince Harry, Jarvis Cocker, David Hockney and Gavin Brown – are always utterly contemporary, reflective of the current landscape of popular culture. They encapsulate a specific moment in time, which Peyton adroitly seizes and elevates to the realm of the sublime, with an idiosyncratically melancholic – yet luminous – style. Evan Recording is an apt representation of her proximity to the contemporaneous. Portraying the frontman of the alternative rock band The Lemonheads just a year before the collective broke up for a duration of eight years, the image ripples at a crossroads between idealised glamour and profound humanity. Evan’s penetrating gaze, directed towards the microphone he is presumably about to sing into, supposes unflinching passion; his imperturbable intent, paired with a relaxed posture, allows the viewer to observe his silhouette without apprehending the weight of his awareness. Evan belongs to a long list of musicians and rock stars Peyton illustrated in her career; ‘I’m very inspired by artists and musicians, people who touch me, people who help me feel my feelings', she remarked (Elizabeth Peyton, quoted in ’I paint people who help me feel my feelings’, Conceptual Fine Arts, 19 December 2016, online). Caught in a moment of zealous reflection, the titular character undertakes the eponymous musical act, horizontalised as if recording music were for him a matter of peaceful rest.

    Though the title of the painting elucidates Evan’s setting as a music room, the image displays the latter arranged in an untraditional fashion, placing the microphone stand side by side with the singer’s duvet and various bedding items. As a result, Evan is propelled into a part-real, part-imaginary fantasy world, devoid of spatio-temporal anchors. The monochromatic background, seemingly engulfing him in a mass of abstraction, further emphasises the dislocation that is at play, commanding the viewer to move beyond the logical parameters of the depicted scene. The character’s ageless traits further imbue the image with an ambivalent - and timeless - quality. Musing on the youthful energy exuded by Peyton’s subjects despite their varying ages, Matthew Higgs once drew a comparison between her portraits and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Peyton’s portrait of Angela Merkel commissioned by Vogue in 2017, for instance, pictures the Chancellor with youthful blue eyes and an incandescent glow. Here, it is almost as though Evan’s beauty transcends mere aesthetics and enters the realm of the ethereal: his resplendent fair skin and his maroon curls endow him with an angelic quality, a sempiternal appearance that moves across time. In art historical terms, the style with which he is rendered is ‘part Abstract-Expressionist, part Renaissance miniature, with a touch of Pre-Raphaelite romanticism thrown in for good measure’, Roberta Smith writes. In other words, it is ‘beautiful in a slightly awkward, self-effacing way’ (Roberta Smith, ‘Blood and Punk Royalty to Grunge Royalty’, The New York Times, 24 March 1995).

    A gem-like rendering of Evan Dando in his element, Evan Recording exudes the gleeful and poetic delicacy of Peyton’s best work. It is reflective of the artist’s desire to capture the emotional crux of an honest instant; ‘there are different moments that I’m interested in’, she once remarked. ‘But I think it is such an amazing moment when people realize what they are and what they can be, and they start putting themselves out into the world. I think you can see it in people when it’s happening. They look different’ (Elizabeth Peyton in conversation with Jarvis Cocker, Interview Magazine, 26 November 2008, online).


Evan Recording

oil on board
23.4 x 30.9 cm (9 1/4 x 12 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1997.

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £112,500

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019