George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006

  • Exhibited

    New York, Luhring Augustine, George Condo: Existential Portraits, 5 May - 3 June 2006, p. 119 (illustrated)
    New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Paintings: Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Math Bass, Ross Bleckner, Francesco Clemente, George Condo, Will Cotton, Elizabeth Neel, Peter Saul, Julia Wachtel, 2 November - 21 December 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    A quintessential example of George Condo’s singular and iconic approach to portraiture, Red and Green Composition belongs to the handful of paintings from the artist’s seminal Existential Portraits series that tackle the grand tradition of the nude. At the same time, it explores the visual cross section of mental states, with its tense, psychological flair in its use of jarring colours of complementary reds and greens. Painting entirely from his imagination and art historical memory, Condo synthesises influences ranging from Old Master painting to Cubism with a sensibility informed by popular culture, to construct a character that is “seductive and repulsive,” “frightening and appealing” all at once (R. Rugoff, “The Enigma of Jean Louis: Interview 14 March 2006”, in George Condo: Existential Portraits: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings 2005/2006, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, pp. 8-9). True to Condo’s penchant for exaggeration and distortion, however, the woman’s face has been transformed into a twisted dichotomy featuring a phantom-like mask in monstrous green with menacing fangs and bulging eyes that meets our scrutiny with a confrontational gaze. The contrast between the Jekyll and Hyde-like expression of an animal-like snarl and mischievous smirk is an example of Condo’s ability to depict that which ‘goes between a scream and a smile.’ (George Condo, quoted in Ossian Ward, ‘George Condo: Interview’, Time Out, 6 Feb 2007, online). In its palpable psychological intensity, Red and Green Composition is exemplary of Condo’s approach to portraiture as a type of “Psychological Cubism”. Just like Picasso embraced multiple viewpoints in his cubist portraits of his muses, Condo incorporates a multitude of extreme mental vicissitudes.

    The majority of the image is made up of a velvety ruby-red ground that would feel at home in the portraits of Diego Velázquez or the psychologically dense images of Francis Bacon. The impudent bust sits up against a blue and white striped object that resembles a beach chair. “My painting is all about this interchangeability of languages in art,” Condo notes, “where one second you might feel the background has the shading and tonalities you would see in a Rembrandt portrait, but the subject is completely different and painted like some low-culture, transgressive mutation of a comic strip” (George Condo, quoted in J. Belcove, “George Condo interview”, in Financial Times, 21 April 2013).

    The theme of the reclining nude represents a key recurring motif in Condo’s oeuvre since the artist’s emergence as a figurative painter on the New York art scene nearly four decades ago. Having explored the subject matter in the late 1980s and early 1990s vis-à-vis Picasso’s nudes, in the mid-2000s Condo revisited the genre with a handful of paintings that took as their point of departure Francisco Goya’s La Maja desnuda, 1795-1800, and Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863. Both paintings radically subverted the conventions of a genre that advocated classical ideals of nudity – a nude woman within a contemporary setting whose defiant stare and straightforward gaze confronted the viewer. Showcasing both Condo’s remarkable draughtsmanship and virtuoso handling of paint, Red and Green Composition is exceptional in Condo’s oeuvre for the way in which it explicitly addresses the loaded history of the gaze through the nude; the female nude appears to reclaim her agency by challenging the voyeuristic impulse in our looking, and set the foundation for the artist’s celebrated Drawing Paintings from 2011 and 2012.

    Condo has used Old Master techniques and subject matter to create an image that is at once timeless and contemporary, masterfully allowing the viewer to step beyond aesthetic comfort zones and embrace the honest liberality of this new style of portraiture. Above all it is Condo’s ability to capture the spectrum of human emotions, psychological states and the existential plight of humanity, which has made him one of the most revered painters of his generation.

  • Artist Biography

    George Condo


    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 from a Distinguished Private New York Collection


Red and Green Composition

signed and dated 'Condo 06' on the reverse
oil on canvas
157.5 x 136.5 cm. (62 x 53 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2006.

HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,990,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019