Francis Alÿs - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 16, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

  • Catalogue Essay

    Over the past two decades, Francis Alys has created a highly varied oeuvre incorporating performance, painting, film making and documentary photography which deals primarily with the social and economic condition of his adopted Mexico. Throughout the 90s, the Belgian born artist, whose artistic endeavour is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Situationists and the Fluxus movement, had Mexican billboard painters reproduce and enlarge his small scale canvases of nondescript, deadpan imagery to create multi panel installations that question the notion of authorship and ownership. The present lot, a charming, deftly executed painting from 2002, has a certain humurous and absurd quality reminiscent of the Belgian master Rene Magritte. With the vantage point framed like an hapazard Surrealist photograph, Francis Alys depicts the act of viewing a painting, one that is strikingly similar to the present lot, in a sparse domestic environment. Should we, the viewers, identify with the suited gentleman admiring the small canvas of a shirtless man walking in a hilly landscape? Or is that the artist viewing his own work? Francis Alys' oblique oeuvre is certainly not immediately obvious, but with time one is charmed but his elusive, poetic world.
    My paintings, my images, are only attempting to illustrate situations I confront, provoke or "perform" on a more public, usually urban - and ephemeral level. I'm trying to make a very clear distinction in between what will be addressing the street and what will be directed to the gallery wall. The photo residue of an act acquires a very different status (other than the act itself) once hanged on a gallery wall. It can become the finality of the piece. I tried to create painted images that could become equivalents to the action, souvenirs without literally representing the act itself. Most of the time, I would try to imagine a more domestic situation that could translate a similar situation, but also function as an autonomous painting on the wall, and fulfill the more "commercial" aspect of the profession, within its commonly accepted parameters. (Francis Alys in conversation with Gianni Romano, 'Francis Alÿs: streets and gallery walls' Flash Art #211, 2000) 

  • 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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Oil and encaustic on canvas mounted on wooden panel.
14.3 x 17.7 cm. (5 5/8 x 7 in).
Signed and dated 'Francis Alÿs 2002' on the reverse.

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £57,650

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

17 Oct 2009