George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "It would be interesting if you walked into a room and saw paintings that you didn’t think were painted today, paintings you thought were painted three or four hundred years ago... but could never have been."
    —George Condo

    Executed early in the artist’s career in 1985, Untitled uniquely showcases Condo’s use of the art historical canon as both a source and a point of departure. Student of Warhol and friend of Basquiat, George Condo first rose to prominence amidst the bustling New York art scene in the early 1980s. Despite the artistic influences of his mentors and peers, Condo had no interest in becoming part of the post-Pop movement; rather, he looked to the Old Masters for inspiration. The unique style he has developed and honed over the past four decades relies on contrasts—in style, form, and subject matter—which allows him to pay tribute to a vast array of art-historical figures, from Vermeer to Picasso, abstracting figures using a variety of artistic styles ranging from Mannerism to Cubism.


    Expanding Canvases


    In the mid-1980s, Condo began working on a group of paintings which he called “Expanding Canvases." While making these works, each produced during a period of fervent experimentation, he would listen to jazz musicians like Miles Davis, allowing the music to inspire his own artistic improvisations on the canvas. A trained musician himself, Condo used riffs and solos to guide the weaving and swirling of paint across his canvas, creating sweeping tendrils and sharp turns. The improvised lines in Untitled give life to clocks, music notes, disjointed brick walls, staircases, and cartoonish figures; however, these forms are abstracted just past the point of creating narrative, suspended within patterns of dots and lines which elude time and setting. 



    From Bosch to Dürer


    The Expanding Canvases combine European tradition and American experimentation, producing a kind of fervency and dynamism not unlike what Hieronymus Bosch produced during the Northern Renaissance. Much like Bosch’s crowded scenes with anthropomorphic monsters and city walls, the present work merges reality with fantasy, for instance where the nose of the man in the stocking cap joins a swirling clifftop pathway, as if one must continue up his brow like a drawbridge. Like Bosch’s Christ in Limbo, Condo’s Untitled transports viewers to a place that is many settings all at once—part city, part carnival, part story—and yet no place at all. In technique, this painting also recalls the monochromatic traditions made widespread by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, who used lines to create a sense of chaos and mystery in his woodcut prints illustrating biblical stories. Like Dürer’s prints, Condo’s Untitled relies on similar methods of cross-hatching and varying densities in pigment to create highlights and lowlights. The result is a canvas which immerses the viewer into the chaos of improvisation—one that, while informed by European traditions, is distinctly American.


    Hieronymous Bosch, Christ in Limbo, c. 1575. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Image: © Indianapolis Museum of Art / Martha Delzell Memorial Fund / Bridgeman Images
    • Provenance

      Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne
      Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
      Vreg Baghoomian Inc., New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989

    • 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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signed and dated "Condo 1985" on the overlap
oil on linen
62 3/4 x 34 3/8 in. (159.4 x 87.3 cm)
Painted in 1985.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $504,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022