George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 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

    Auguste Renoir, A Young Girl with Daisies, 1889
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    “Condo never lifts entire images, nor does he borrow ready-made styles. Instead, he assimilates his references into a seamless amalgam, so that we end up viewing one aspect of art history through the presence of another.” — Ralph Rugoff 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 craftsmanship and paint handling of the Old Masters to depict the fantastical subjects of Condo’s imagination. Developing a reputation as the heir to Picasso, Condo’s exceptionally prolific body of work draws on inspiration as diverse as Diego Velázquez, Pop art and graffiti.


    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, demonstrating a limitless knowledge of art history and popular culture.


    The bulk of Condo’s oeuvre comprises portraits of invented characters presenting 'composites of various psychological states painted in different ways'. Night Portrait showcases Condo’s acute understanding of psychological iconography epitomising 'the madness of everyday life'. With her long, graceful neck and refined bust, Condo’s young woman is the epitome of quiet upper class dignity, one of many bourgeois young ladies portrayed by painters over the centuries. But above her neck the viewer is confronted by bulging eyes, bulbous cheeks, pricked ears and crooked teeth, a curiously feral ‘construction of ingenious and novel facial topographies' that affronts any expectations.i She is neither man nor beast, hero nor villain, but her uncanny appearance evokes a strange mixture of feelings in the viewer – a wobbly but poignant dignity, with meticulous attention to naturalistic detail offset by elements of the grotesque and the absurd.



    Gwen John, Girl with Bare Shoulders, circa 1909-10
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York


    Condo’s long fascination with portraying complex and precarious mental states in invented characters is displayed at its best in Night Portrait, with an intriguing duality that runs throughout his imaginary portraits. His subjects, like those of Gwen John (see for example Girl with Bare Shoulders, circa 1909-10), manifest an intriguing intensity of presence, with inner worlds and ambivalent, deeply provocative thoughts that push his characters to the furthest extremes of the human psyche. Like Nietzsche, whose Birth of Tragedy described the duality between the sons of Zeus - the rational purity of the sun god Apollo and the irrational, frenzied god of wine and music Dionysus – Condo’s witty, provocative portraits argue that both forces are necessary for the creation of art. The Ancient Greeks did not consider the two gods to be opposites or rivals, seeing them as entwined by nature.


    “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.” ii


    George Condo, Woman on Red Chair, 2007
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong in June 2021 for HK$ 4,788,000
    © 2021 George Condo/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 


    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.” iii


    Condo has exhibited extensively throughout his career, with his largest solo exhibition in Asia held in 2021 at the Long Museum in Shanghai. An acclaimed mid-career retrospective held at the New Museum in New York in 2011 later travelled to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Hayward Gallery, London; and Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Condo was also the subject of a museum-wide exhibition hosted at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in 2016 and selected to appear at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019 titled ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ and curated by Ralph Rugoff. 



    George Condo: The Artist at Work, 2017



    iRalph Rugoff, The Imaginary Portraits of George Condo, London, 2002, p. 9

    iiGeorge Condo, quoted in Stuart Jeffries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly died”’, The Guardian, 10 February 2014, online

    iiiGeorge Condo, quoted in Holland Cotter, ‘A Mind Where Picasso Meets Looney Tunes’, The New York Times, 27 January 2011, online

    • Provenance

      Luhring Augustine, New York
      Private Collection, New York
      Skarstedt Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Ralph Rugoff, The Imaginary Portraits of George Condo, New York, 2002, p. 129 (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


Night Portrait

signed, titled and dated 'Condo August 01 "Night Portrait"' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
152.7 x 121.7 cm. (60 1/8 x 47 7/8 in.)
Painted in August 2001.

Full Cataloguing

HK$4,800,000 - 6,800,000 

Sold for HK$6,905,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

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

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021