Francis Alÿs - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, March 8, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Lisson Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Lisson Gallery, Francis Alÿs, 14 December 1999 – 29 January 2000

  • Catalogue Essay

    Confronted by the cultural and physical landscape of Mexico City, Francis Alÿs literally began walking it, and these contemplative walks and poetic wanderings are his strategy to explore these complexities. An iconic motif for the artist, the Zócalo, Mexico City’s historic main square, was built over what was once the heart of the Aztec capital by the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés to symbolize his triumph over the indigenous people. The Zócalo has since become a stage for demonstrations of power and public expression. Given the historical importance of this shared space, it is no surprise that the artist used this site as a backdrop for many of his most celebrated early works, such as Cuentos Patrióticos (Patriotic Tales) (1997), Zócalo (1999), and Sunpath, Mexico City (1999).

    Alÿs realized that his work is a product of the interaction between reality and its record. This interaction is exemplified in the present lot, Sunpath, Mexico City (1999), an exceptional installation and the only intact edition of the complete 24 photographs composing the project, juxtaposed with sunpath diagrams. In each photograph, a shadow is cast from the towering central flagpole that displays the Mexican national flag, with people gathering in the shadow. Recalling a sundial, Sunpath, Mexico City meticulously documents the hustle and bustle of any normal day, between eleven o’clock in the morning and six o’clock in the afternoon, when the square is at its busiest. Yet bystanders are not simply taking refuge from the sun, but also 'provoking a sculptural situation, through social encounter' (Francis Alÿs and Cuauhtémoc Medina, eds., Francis Alÿs: a story of deception, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010, p. 100), indirectly informing us about the different times of day. Likewise, and 'within this constant phenomenon of movement you also have moments of complete freeze' (Matthew Crookes, ed., Artspace, New Zealand, 2008, p. 11) much like movies in the 1940s and 1950s. Ultimately, Sunpath, Mexico City, attests to the conceptual complexity that Francis Alÿs produces, evincing dialogues centered on acute observation, urban explorations and engagement with quotidian life.

  • 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.

    View More Works


24 works: Sunpath, Mexico City i) 06.11.98 11.05am; ii) 06.11.98 11.15am; iii) 14.12.98 11.05am; iv) 14.12.98 12.15pm; v) 24.03.99 4.00pm; vi) 24.03.99 4.20pm; vii) 24.03.99 17.00pm; viii) 21.04.99 11.45am; ix) 21.04.99 12.00pm; x) 21.04.99 2.45pm; xi) 27.04.99 6.13pm; xii) 27.04.99 6.15pm; xiii) 20.05.99 2.15pm; xiv) 20.05.99 2.30pm; xv) 20.05.99 3.05pm; xvi) 20.05.99 15.30pm; xvii) 20.05.99 4.15pm; xviii) 20.05.99 4.30pm; xix) 20.05.99 4.45 pm; xx) 20.05.99 4.45 pm; xxi) 20.05.99 5.45pm; xxii) Sunpath, Mexico City 20.05.99 18.30pm; xxiii) Sunpath, Mexico City 21.05.99 1.15pm; xxiv) Sunpath, Mexico City 21.05.99 1.15pm

each stamped '©1999 Zócalo, México D.F./ Francis Alÿs' lower left; each further stamped '©1999 Zócalo, México D.F./ Francis Alÿs' on the reverse
archival pigment print laid down on sunpath chart, in artist's wood frame
each 29.8 x 61 cm (11 3/4 x 24 in.)
Executed in 1999, each work is number 4 from an edition of 4.

£70,000 - 100,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £75,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 9 March 2018