Francis Alÿs - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection of Natasha Gelman, Mexico City (acquired directly from the artist)
    Estate of the above
    Galería Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Robert R. Littman, ed., La colección Gelman: la colección de arte Mexicano moderno y contemporáneo de Jacques y Natasha Gelman, Cuernavaca, 2004, p. 124 (illustrated)
    Theodora Vischer, ed., Francis Alÿs: Sign Painting Project, Göttingen, 2011, no. C01.4.1 and C01.4.2, p. 148 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present work was originally acquired by renowned collector, Natasha Gelman, who with her husband, Jacques, assembled one of the finest collections of twentieth century European and Mexican art in the world, much of which is now part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Their fortune was built primarily from Mr. Gelman’s wildly successful Mexican movie business, which led the couple to develop close friendships with artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

    Mrs. Gelman’s passion for art continued throughout her life, resulting in acquisitions like the present lot that stems from Francis Alÿs' prominent ‘Sign Painting Project’, conducted in Mexico between 1993 and 1997. The project, a collaborative exercise between Alÿs and professional billboard-painters, including Juan Garcia, Enrique Huerta and Emilio Rivera, borrowed directly ‘from street advertisements encountered in my neighbourhood in the Centro Histórico. These metal sheets painted by sign painters are propped on sidewalks or hung over storefronts and we are immediately seduced by the communicative power of their iconography' (Francis Alÿs, quoted in, Theodora Vischer, eds., Francis Alÿs: Sign Painting Project with Juan García, Emilio Rivera, Enrique Huerta, 2011, p.7). Alÿs brought the billboard-painters, known as rotulistas, some of his small-format oil paintings and asked them if they would copy and expand his motifs. These works explore the themes of authorship and originality. As an underlying purpose of the collaborative effort, Alÿs sought to challenge the idea of the painting as a unique object.

  • Artist Biography

    Francis Alÿs

    Belgian / Mexican • 1959

    Born in Belgium, Francis Alÿs traveled to Mexico in 1986 as part of a French program to assist in the aftermath of the tragic 1985 earthquake, and has lived there ever since. Throughout his career, the artist has analyzed facets of everyday urban life using a variety of media including video, drawing, installation and public action. Sign Painting Project (1993-'97) is a prime example of the artist's interest in the sprawling urbanization of Mexico City. In this early series, Alÿs drew inspiration from professional Mexican sign painters (rotúlistas) who painted large billboard advertisements throughout the city. In response to these large colorful compositions, Alÿs employed a similar style in creating small-scale paintings of familiar objects and places.  Alÿs asked various rotúlistas to copy and enlarge his paintings, displaying his work and that of the rotúlista side-by-side. This series, like many of Alÿs' other works, illustrates the artist's concerns with such themes as collaboration, banality and originality.

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signed, inscribed and dated 'F.ALŸS EMILIO RIVERA 1997' on the reverse of larger part; further signed and dated 'F.ALŸS 1997' on the reverse of smaller part
enamel on metal and oil and encaustic on wood, in 2 parts
smaller part 12.2 x 17.8 cm (4 3/4 x 7 in.)
larger part 90.6 x 123.2 cm (35 5/8 x 48 1/2 in.)

Painted in 1997.

£120,000 - 180,000 ‡♠

Sold for £125,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 October 2018