Genieve Figgis - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Almine Rech Gallery, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Dijon, Consortium Museum, L’Amanach 18: Genieve Figgis, 22 June - 14 October 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    First unveiled as part of the third instalment of the international biennial, L’Almanach 18: Genieve Figgis, at the Dijon Consortium Museum in France among fifteen other oils on canvas, Birth of Venus (After Alexandre Cabanel) is a prime example of the artist’s pursuit and exploration of history as a constant starting point for her work. One of the many alluring nudes on view at the Paris Salon of 1863, Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus (1863) was received in triumph as it perfectly embodied the ideals of academic art, with highly idealised bodies carefully modelled in silky brushstrokes, and more importantly, set against the backdrop of a mythological and allegorical ‘pretext’. While Cabanel’s Birth of Venus was shown to great acclaim at the official Salon, one other work caused great controversy at the Salon des Refusés (the Salon for the rejected), Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, where he featured a female nude in a contemporary setting seated with two clothed men in the countryside, thereby transgressing the rules of academic painting and scandalising contemporary morals. Looking to Cabanel’s masterpiece as her main source of inspiration, Genieve Figgis makes a bold statement. She puts her own contemporary spin on the classical subject that was once seen to embody the perfect ideals of academic painting, not shying away from questioning the validity of taste and bringing home the importance of non-conformity when it comes to originality and the personal vision of the artist.

    Reinterpreting the classical female character in a whimsical and humorous manner, Figgis renders Venus with skull-like and animalistic features, bathed in rich and eye candy colours that seemed to melt through paint, like candle wax, calling to mind the small figures that remind us of our childhood. “The women in the paintings are reinventions of historical portraits. I like to paint them as more vibrant characters, braver more colour and alive” she explained, dissolving their forms against each other and blurring the contours of their bodies with the same assurance as a deforming mirror in a fun house, yet retaining a dreamlike quality. It is this very coexistence of the whimsical and macabre that makes the present lot all the more charming with a combination of apparent pictorial banality with an otherworldly quality, where Figgis’s Venus hovers between an ancient deity and a modern dream. While Figgis never sets out to intentionally portray grotesque or comedic in her work, the painting is her stage and the story she paints happen by chance, allowing her to invent and direct as she goes along, with a blend of continuous and sinuous acrylic brushstrokes, with no idea of how it will end. The result is of a fascinating moment, in which the old times are reflected on contemporaneity and her figures repeat themselves masked under the different cosmetics of time.


Birth of Venus (After Alexandre Cabanel)

signed and dated 'Genieve Figgis 2018' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
120.2 x 150 cm. (47 3/8 x 59 in.)
Painted in 2018.

HK$250,000 - 400,000 

Sold for HK$2,375,000

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2019