George Condo - New Now New York Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, New Museum; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; London, Hayward Gallery; Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, George Condo: Mental States, January 26, 2011 – May 28, 2012, pp. 117, 168 (illustrated, p. 117)

  • Literature

    Ralph Rugoff, The Imaginary Portraits of George Condo, New York, 2002, p. 120 (illustrated)
    Mark Brown, “George Condo retrospective opens at the Hayward Gallery”, The Guardian, October 17, 2011, online
    Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, no. 211, pp. 198-199 (illustrated, p. 199)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Picasso was always painting Dora Maar or whoever, Bacon’s portraits could always be traced to some existing person. But not my portraits. They were all imaginary.”
    George Condo

    At once visually arresting and amusingly alarming, Nude Homeless Drinker from 1999 is a striking example of George Condo’s manifest interest in picturing psychological disturbance, painted in his unique pictorial language that forces viewers to ponder the surreal state of our own humanity. Since as early as the 1980’s when Condo first joined the booming New York art scene, he has been widely considered an “artist’s artist”, recontextualizing the works of Old and Modern Masters from Ingres and Velázquez to Picasso and Matisse, all while continuing to influence and astonish younger generations of painters such as John Currin, Glenn Brown and Nicole Eisenman. Ultimately, Condo’s incredible imagination and his remarkable ability to portray the whole spectrum of human emotions are what has made him an icon of twentieth and twenty-first century painting. Rendered in brilliant unexpected colors and sensitive brushstrokes, Nude Homeless Drinker is a zany portrait that perfectly encapsulates what are endearingly referred to as Condo’s “unedited human disasters”.

    In the mid-1990s, Condo began to develop a new facial vocabulary in his portraits with bulbous cheeks, bulging eyes and disk-like ears, all discernible in the present work. These particular features convey a compelling psychological presence, often immediately recognizable as somehow manic or depressive. Condo refers to these paintings as “antipodal portraits”, renderings of figures on the outskirts of society or in everyday roles, hovering between reality and fantasy. These figures are regularly accompanied by recurring referential symbols, such as bubbles, wine bottles or glasses, cigarettes, and carrots. The idyllic blue sky background, whimsical bubble and wine bottle of the present work are also evident in some of Condo’s other depictions of determined drinkers, such as The Drinker (1997) and Uncle Joe (2005), a scene of the ultimate hedonist in a peaceful green beyond the reaches of society, aggressive in his inebriation.

    The present work was included in Condo’s first major survey exhibition, George Condo: Mental States (2011-2012), which travelled to important institutions including the New Museum, New York and the Hayward Gallery, London. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the show displayed the breadth and diversity of the artist’s impressive oeuvre with works spanning his entire career. Nude Homeless Drinker is a captivating and humorous example of the theme “Manic Society”, a grouping of paintings from the late 1990s and 2000s depicting drunken exhibitionism and figures in the throes of manic delight and unhinged desperation or rage. The teeth-bearing grins or screams of many of these figures recall de Kooning’s ferociously smiling, abstracted women, such as Woman I (1950-1952), who parallel Condo’s own female forms, transformed into relevant, contemporary images. As scholar Simon Baker described: “Nude Homeless Drinker usher[ed] in a range of variously outraged and outrageous female forms. While in other work, stock poses from the life room are turned on their heads: the sense of the female form prey to the vicissitudes and arbitrary geometry of posing in a constant theme of Condo’s unedited female disasters” (Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, pp. 198-99).

    Nude Homeless Drinker is one of if not the first instances in Condo’s painting in which he explicitly depicts multiple states of physical and mental being. The five arms swinging in frenzied motion imbue the figure with an ambiguity that is completely unlike any of Condo’s contemporaneous, carefully posed portraits. Foreshadowing by over a decade the development of some of his more recent series such as the Drawing Paintings or Double Heads, the present work already exhibits Condo’s mastery of critic Harold Rosenberg’s coined term “action painting”, which is here coupled with the artist’s incredible painterly treatment of form and character grounded in his understanding and appreciation of the likes of Picasso and Rembrandt. As Condo described, “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” (George Condo, quoted in Stuart Jeffries, “George Condo: 'I was delirious. Nearly died'”, The Guardian, February 10, 2014, online). Nude Homeless Drinker perfectly embodies this multivalent nature of Condo’s oeuvre at its finest. A pivotal work that bridges his many thematic and technical achievements, Nude Homeless Drinker is a testament to the undying nature of the primacy of painting and the master of the medium, George Condo.

  • 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 from a Distinguished Private Collection


Nude Homeless Drinker

signed, titled and dated "Condo 99 Nude Homeless Drinker" on the reverse
oil on canvas
65 x 72 in. (165.1 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 1999.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $591,000

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New Now

New York Auction 28 February 2018