George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, June 6, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “What’s possible with painting that’s not in real life is you can see two or three sides of a personality at the same time, and you can capture what I call a psychological cubism.” — George Condo


     George Condo’s singular voice has been a cornerstone of American and European art for almost three decades. Emerging out of the dynamism of the early 1980s New York art scene, Condo developed a unique and provocative painting style, with his self-styled “fake old masters'' borrowing the virtuoso draftsmanship and paint handling of the Old Masters to depict the fantastical subjects of Condo’s imagination.



    Diego Velázquez, Portrait of a Man (possibly José Nieto), c.1635–1645

    Courtesy of English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House


    Inspired by a course on Baroque and Rococo painting during his studies, Condo spent a year studying Old Master glazing techniques in Los Angeles and upon relocating to New York worked as a printer for Andy Warhol. He exhibited at the Pat Hearn Gallery alongside radical painters such as Mary Heilmann and Philip Taaffe, and became close friends with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Over the next two decades, he explored an astonishing variety of aesthetic styles, from Mannerism to Cubism. Possessing a limitless knowledge of art history and popular culture, Condo’s exceptionally prolific body of work draws on inspiration as diverse as Diego Velázquez, Picasso and Looney Tunes.


     “Rather than a narrative there is often a philosophical subtext which acts as a compositional structure. I painted a number of paintings representing the carrot. It’s a metaphor of false hope, the carrot is dangling in front of you, like the dagger in Hamlet.” — George Condo 


    The bulk of Condo’s oeuvre comprises portraits of invented characters presenting “composites of various psychological states painted in different ways”. The Executive showcases Condo’s acute understanding of psychological iconography epitomising “the madness of everyday life”, with meticulous attention to naturalistic detail offset by elements of the grotesque and the absurd. The young, slick-haired executive is depicted by Condo in his sharp-collared 1980s power suit, eagerly following the capitalist carrot that dangles invitingly just within his reach (the iconography of the carrot also figures in Condo's other works such as Cave Painting, 2008). He bears a striking resemblance to the original Wolf of Wall Street, Bret Easton Ellis’s legendary anti-hero Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.


    George Condo The Executive American Psycho



    The product of the 1980s pre-crash ‘greed-is-good’ era, and a symbol of the American dream gone awry, Bateman is a wealthy, materialistic Wall Street investment banker who leads a gruesome secret life as a serial killer. American Psycho satirises the ultimate stereotype of yuppie greed: rich, shallow, addicted to sex, drugs, and conspicuous consumption. Despite his affluence and high social status, Bateman is continually wracked by insecurity and self-hatred, and consequently targets many of his victims for triggering his feelings of inadequacy, most notoriously taking offence to one of his victims’ superior business card. Fittingly, American Psycho ends with the question of whether Bateman is indeed a serial killer, or simply a sadist suffering extreme delusions and a vivid imagination. Condo’s long fascination with portraying complex and precarious mental states in invented characters is shown at its best in The Executive. His witty, provocative take on the character of the young banker pushes the furthest extremes of the human psyche:


    "It's what I call artificial realism. That's what I do. I try to depict a character's train of thoughts simultaneously – hysteria, joy, sadness, desperation. If you could see these things at once that would be like what I'm trying to make you see in my art." [1]


    Condo Cave Painting

    George Condo, Cave Painting, 2008


    The marriage of his idiosyncratic subjects and sumptuous oil technique has led to Condo being lauded by The New York Times as:


    “the missing link ... between an older tradition of fiercely loony American figure painting — Willem de Kooning’s grinning women, Philip Guston’s ground-meat guys, Jim Nutt’s cubist cuties, anything by Peter Saul — and the recent and updated resurgence of that tradition in the work of [John] Currin, Glenn Brown, Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schutz and others.” [2]


    [1] Stuart Jeffries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly died”’, The Guardian, 10 February 2014, online

    [2] Holland Cotter, The New York Times, 27 January 2011


    • Provenance

      Sprüth Magers, Berlin
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in July 2018

    • Exhibited

      New York, New Museum; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; London, Hayward Gallery; Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, George Condo: Mental States, 26 January 2011 - 28 May 2012, p. 138 (illustrated)
      Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, George Condo: Memories of Manet and Velazquez, 27 May - 10 July 2004

    • Literature

      Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, no. 253, p. 230 (illustrated)

    • 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.

      View More Works


The Executive

signed and dated 'Condo 03' on the reverse
oil on canvas
61 x 50.8 cm. (24 x 20 in.)
Painted in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,200,000 - 3,200,000 

Sold for HK$4,284,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 7 June 2021