Franz West - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • The primary achievement of Franz West’s illustrious career is his pioneering approach to sculpture and its collaborative relationship with the viewer. The artist grew up in troubled Post-War Vienna and his early exposure to the 1960s performance art movement, the Viennese Actionists, sparked a lifelong fascination with creating an active dialogue between the spectator and the sculpture in both a physical and intellectual capacity. West adopted the pure aims of the Actionists, while rejecting their emphasis on macabre themes and intention to shock their audience, instead prioritising humour, wit and philosophy as his foremost principles. 
    'It doesn’t matter what art looks like but how it’s used.'
    —Franz West
    West’s breakout sculpture series of Paßstücke or Adaptives begun in 1974, comprised of bulbous, abstract forms fashioned out of wire and Papier-mâché. The viewer was encouraged to hold, wear and interact with them, subverting the traditional premise of art as something to be viewed and not touched. West’s sculptural potential was unlocked through the unique participation of each individual viewer. This emphasis on an immersive experience remained a key component of West’s oeuvre through subsequent techniques, mediums and decades, and is equally relevant and radical in the series of ‘sitting sculptures’ of the early 2000s, including the present work Cool Book from 2007. 

    The discovery of aluminium as a medium allowed the artist to create works suitable for all environments, interior and exterior, and allowed an interactive experience freed from the fragility of his earlier media. Works such as Cool Book could be placed in the public domain, liberated from the sometimes-intimidating environment of the traditional, white-walled gallery space. Cool Book and others in the series are formed from welded sheets of aluminium, which form arbitrary shapes, block coloured in vibrant shades. The present work takes the shape of a round, uneven doughnut, lacquered in a sugary pink hue. Unlike Franz West’s furniture, which conforms to familiar useable attributes of chairs, benches and lamps, Cool Book is entirely abstract, yet the flat-topped shape subliminally encourages the viewer to take a seat. 


    Otto Kobalek with Passstück by Franz West, Vienna, 1974, photographed by
    Friedl Kubelka. Image: © DACS 2022

    The title of work is fitting with West’s unique sense of humour and quirky incorporation of linguistics which often borders on the absurd. Rather than pertaining to the English definition of the words ‘Cool’ and ‘Book’, instead the title is a play on words of the Italian phrase ‘buco del culo’, which translates to ‘asshole’. Once this definition is revealed, so is the artist’s joke, one can’t help but see the image emerge from the abstract and the picture of the viewer sitting atop the work only adds to the humour. The bubble-gum pink colour contributes to the anatomical references of the work with cartoonish effect. West’s choice of colours for this series were sourced from Toys ‘R’ Us catalogues and contribute to their enticing and playful appearances. Pink features heavily in West’s practise and also serves as a reference to the artist’s mother, who ran a dental practice, as it recalls the colour of dentures and gums. Cool Book is exemplary of Franz West’s multi-faceted work, though appearing spontaneous or opaque, each aspect of the work is curated to create a unique and collaborative viewing experience, unlike any other. 


    Franz West in Conversation with Hans Olbricht

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Cool Book

lacquered aluminium
53 x 176 x 208 cm (20 7/8 x 69 1/4 x 81 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

£180,000 - 200,000 ‡ ♠

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Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 29 June 2022