Franz West - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
    Collection of Melva Bucksbaum (acquired from the above in 2003)
    Christie's, New York, November 16, 2017, lot 865
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I’ve been making things to sit on for a long time now, I mean seats that are shown in galleries and museums. But they are not just shown… They are also experienced by being sat upon.” - Franz West

    A trio of brightly colored welded sculptures resembling beanbags, Knotze, 2003, embodies Franz West’s playful approach to art-making, wherein form and function coexist and collaboration is essential. At the start of his practice in the 1960s, West was confronted with the provocative and intense performance art of the Viennese Actionists. Eschewing their seriousness, West sought a lightness to cultivate accessibility and developed a unique approach to sculpture in which the engagement of the audience with the works becomes art unto itself. His notable works from the 1970s called Passstücke, or Adaptives, are early examples of this investigation where he invited the viewer to physically interact with sculptural objects formed of plaster, papier-mâché and other found materials.

    In the mid-1990s, West turned to larger objects and furniture, exploring new ways to involve viewers. In the present work, three Knotze sculptures, shaped deceptively like beanbags, invite viewers to sit upon them and engage with other participants, exemplifying the new "functional furniture" envisioned by West and the unique social aspect of art. West activates this social dimension by making his art approachable. Here, he achieves this by rendering simple organic forms in vivid primary colors. Mark Godfrey, co-curator of Franz West at Tate Modern, London, notes this phenomenon saying, “If previously in the Passstücke he had encouraged people to interact with objects, now he was enabling people to interact with people” (Mark Godfrey, Franz West, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2018, p. 127). It is no surprise that West’s furniture is considered foundational to the development of relational aesthetics, an artistic practice based on human condition and centered on the formation of social circumstance.

    Characteristic of his sharp humor, West’s Knotze are rendered in welded aluminum sheets leaving the sitter surprised and having to awkwardly adjust their position, forgoing the traditional notions of both chair as object and sculpture as art. This tension, rooted in the heavily influential philosophies of Ludwig Wittgenstein, was essential to West’s understanding of art, wherein, Robert Fleck notes, “Art should be in some ways distinctly practical, while at the same time the purpose, the sense and the ultimate function of art per se all remain unclear” (Robert Fleck, Franz West, London, 1999, p. 40).

    Rejecting the idea of art as an autonomous object, the present work is a success in West’s endeavor “to create things that were simply art and furniture at the same time” (Mark Godfrey, Franz West, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2018, p. 127). While simple and accessible, West’s works are also subversive, imbued with his sardonic humor, psychoanalytic theories and collaborative practices, and beckon direct experience—to experience such, one just has to take a seat.


Three works: (i-iii) Knotze

lacquered aluminum
red 45 x 43 x 21 1/2 in. (114.3 x 109.2 x 54.6 cm.)
yellow 52 3/4 x 46 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (134 x 118.1 x 64.8 cm.)
blue 46 1/2 x 40 1/4 x 21 1/2 in. (118.1 x 102.2 x 54.6 cm.)

Executed in 2003.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $325,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019