Georg Baselitz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
    Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg
    Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1988

  • Exhibited

    Kunsthaus Hamburg, Arbeit in Geschichte – Geschichte in Arbeit, September 23 - November 13, 1988, no. 4, p. 87 (illustrated)
    Burgrieden, Museum Villa Rot, Baselitz – Ekstasen der Figur. Im Dialog mit der Kunst Afrikas, April 24 – August 14, 2005 (illustrated, frontispiece)
    Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Baselitz 50 Jahre Malerei, November 21, 2009 - March 14, 2010, p. 143 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Andreas Franzke, Georg Baselitz, Munich, 1989, no. 167, p. 197 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Our yearning needs pictures." – Georg Baselitz

    Formerly in the collection of the Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Georg Baselitz’s towering Schwarze Säule (Black Column), 1983, presents a totemic figure emerging from the depths of a black background. Reminiscent of a woodcarving or a sculpture, it is as though Baselitz has carved the contours of his glowing yellow figure from thickly applied paint, the otherworldly specter exhibiting an intense emotional presence that resolutely draws the viewer in. Embodying the culmination of the artist’s achievements to that date while simultaneously signaling a decisive turning point in Baselitz's career, the present work sees the artist expand upon his signature strategy of inversion using deliberately rough brushwork and a bold chromatic palette that can also be found in such masterpieces as Der Brückechor, 1983, and Nachtessen in Dresden, 1983, Kunsthaus Zürich.

    Since the late 1960s, Baselitz has sought to "liberate representation from content”, inverting his image as a means to prompt the viewer to see the picture as a painted surface, rather than an illusionistic space of representational subject matter (Georg Baselitz, quoted in Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 71). While Schwarze Säule pushes his representational subject matter into abstraction, at the same time, it exerts an intense emotional presence that vividly illustrates Baselitz’s radically new approach to the figure. As Andreas Franzke observed, “isolated and set down like alien beings in an environment of which we are told virtually nothing, these figures convey an overwhelming sense of psychological tension. Here, the actual application of the paint…plays the dominant role, conveying the effect with extraordinary impact" (Andreas Franzke, Georg Baselitz, Munich, 1989, p. 169).

    The present work expands on many of the pictorial strategies first introduced in his seminal Orange Eaters and Glass Drinkers series from 1981, where the full-length figures of his earlier paintings were replaced with thickly painted subjects truncated at the waist in a searing palette of yellows and oranges. While the chromatic palette paid homage to the Fauvists, this cruder style of figuration referred back to the history of German Expressionism, particularly that of the Die Brücke movement, but also to the existential paintings of Edvard Munch. As art critic John Russell remarked on related paintings that debuted in New York in 1983, "they have something of [Ernst Ludwig] Kirchner’s direct and unsparing approach to the human body in movement and something of the chromatic wildness of [Erich] Heckel, and yet they are pure Baselitz” (John Russell, “Georg Baselitz and his Upside-Downs”, The New York Times, April 8, 1983, online).

    Entitled “black column” and characterized by a solidity of form, the present work unmistakably recalls Baselitz’s wood sculptures of the same period. Having created his first major sculpture Modell für eine Skulptur, for the West German pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1980, Baselitz between 1982 and the spring of 1983 conceived a group of upright figures and heads. Modulated with a chainsaw and axe from a single tree trunk, Baselitz's sculptures are scarred yet defiant, imperfect yet resilient. Like the carved contours of these wooden sculptures, the figure in the present work bears the bold, incisive gestures of the artist’s hand. Imbued with a sense of weight, the figure is roughly modulated with directional brushstrokes that give it a varied and chiseled tactility reminiscent of the irregular exteriors of Baselitz’s contemporaneous sculpture. Seemingly carved from a “black column” of paint, Schwarze Säule, with its elongated yellow idol-like figure, vividly anticipates the yellow-painted Dresdener Frauen sculptures the artist would create some five years later between 1989 and 1990 as a commemoration to the destruction of Dresden at the end of World War II. As such, Schwarze Säule powerfully exemplifies how Baselitz’s radical sculptural explorations pushed his painterly idiom to new levels of ambition.


Schwarze Säule (Black Column)

signed with the artist's initials and dated "GB 30.VI.83" lower left; further titled and dated "'Schwarze Säule' 30.VI.83" on the reverse
oil on canvas
98 1/2 x 78 7/8 in. (250.2 x 200.2 cm.)
Painted in 1983.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,327,500

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018