George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2009, George Condo’s Homeless Hobo towers above the viewer, the canvas stretching over two metres in height. Within the vast expanse of the picture frame, the figure depicted is a colossus—and a colossus with a maniacal grin at that. Homeless Hobo features one of Condo’s almost iconic characters—his most famous paintings show people whose faces appear contorted through a variety of facial expressions all ramped up to a new extreme. With its references to the tradition of Western painting and its deliberate iconoclasm, with its playful atmosphere and its complex, provocative imagery, Homeless Hobo perfectly demonstrates the wide-ranging popularity of Condo’s works—they are found in museum collections throughout the world, while also featuring on the cover of one of Kanye West’s albums, released only the year after this picture was painted.

    Homeless Hobo forms part of a group of paintings that began in 2006, showing clown-like figures in costumes decorated with multi-coloured dots. These ‘Pierrot’ figures derive from the Commedia dell’Arte, the centuries-old entertainment tradition that originated with Italian players in the Seventeenth Century. But in Homeless Hobo and its sister-paintings, the wide-eyed innocence of the original Pierrot has been wilfully and playfully subverted by Condo, replaced by a combination of emotions that drive the face in different directions, the eyes bulging, the teeth bared. This is a perfect example of what Condo has referred to as ‘psychological cubism’: the eponymous figure in Homeless Hobo has an expression that ‘goes between a scream and a smile.’ Condo has explained that this ‘reflects simultaneous emotions or conversations with the conflicting voices in your head’ (George Condo, quoted in Ossian Ward, ‘George Condo: Interview’, Time Out, 6 Feb 2007, reproduced at

    Condo has filled Homeless Hobo with a crazed energy, captured both in the expression on the subject’s face and in the brushwork that covers its vast expanse. Even the tufts of hair that emanate from the titular hobo’s head have an explosive appearance, thrusting in their different directions from the centre. Meanwhile, the nose appears to be both that of a clown, a small sphere, and also the central vortex of all the facial features. Condo has filled his character with humour and personality as well as a disturbed mania. In so doing, he has revealed the way in which he responded to the energy of the art scene of 1970s and 1980s New York in which he first came to prominence, alongside his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. However, where they brought the language of the street to art—and sometimes vice versa—Condo was tapping into the raw passion that was fuelling them. Like Basquiat, Condo was also a musician, part of an entire cultural scene that was taking place at that point in time; however, Condo subsequently moved to Paris, living in an environment that was utterly different, responding to cultural cues that were very separate. Working at the heart of the European art world, Condo was able to absorb influences as diverse as the Surrealists, Francis Picabia, Gilles Deleuze and even his own compatriot William S. Burroughs. These all percolate through works such as Homeless Hobo: styles, subjects and references conflate and collide under Condo’s guidance.

    Condo is an erudite artist, and frequently combines references to artists as diverse as this. Indeed, the presence of this leering ‘Pierrot’ could be seen as a response to the pensive melancholy of Antoine Watteau’s painting of the same subject, dating from 1718-19 and now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Similarly, the jarring facial expression might be intended to burst the delicate ambience of, say, Pablo Picasso’s Rose Period pictures of circus folk caught in moments of transitory sadness and contemplation. In Homeless Hobo, the deranged, humorous features could be seen as an insight into the state of mind of the character of Pierrot. The subject appears apt for Condo’s ‘psychological cubism’—Pierrot is meant to be in love with another character, Colombine, who in turn is pursued by the Harlequin. It may be this erotic to-and-fro that is evoked in the breasts which protrude absurdly from the conical form that dominates the composition. Certainly, the various elements that decorate the canvas in Homeless Hobo combine to plunge the viewer into a complex narrative, abrasively and entertainingly prompting our curiosity, and thereby fulfilling Condo’s desire that, ‘I like people to walk into one of my exhibitions and say “What happened?”’ (George Condo, quoted in ibid.).

  • Artist Biography

    George Condo

    American • 1957

    Picasso once said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Indeed, American artist George Condo frequently cites Picasso as an explicit source in his contemporary cubist compositions and joyous use of paint. Condo is known for neo-Modernist compositions staked in wit and the grotesque, which draw the eye into a highly imaginary world. 

    Condo came up in the New York art world at a time when art favored brazen innuendo and shock. Student to Warhol, best friend to Basquiat and collaborator with William S. Burroughs, Condo tracked a different path. He was drawn to the endless inquiries posed by the aesthetics and formal considerations of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and the Old Masters.

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Property of an Important European Collector


The Homeless Hobo

signed, titled and dated 'Condo 09 The Homeless Hobo' on the reverse
oil on canvas
216 x 190.6 cm. (85 x 75 in.)
Painted in 2009.

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,680,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 27 November 2016