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

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Held in the Collection of Josh Brolin, George Condo’s Untitled is a remarkable example of the artist’s unique approach to portraiture. A kaleidoscope of color and form, the work pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved by figural representation. Layering a multitude of mediums, the artist fluently works line, form and color into a multi-facetted portrait that brims with an explosive energy–revealing Condo’s undeniable virtuosity as both a draftsman and painter. Geometric planes of color pay homage to his great hero Pablo Picasso, the jigsaw of line and form recall the multiple points of analytical cubism. Executed in 2007, Untitled captures the distinct shift in Condo’s practice whereby he embraced a greater cubist fragmentation of the human form.


    Plunging into the grotesque and the captivating, the comedic and the tragic, Condo’s dark humor mines the psychological depths of both mass media and art history. With his cast of irreverent characters, exaggerated body parts and fantastical worlds, Condo presents one of our generation’s most transformative investigations into the genre of painting. Encapsulating the scale of this endeavor, Massimiliano Gioni, now the director of the New Museum, hails: “Condo–like the most interesting artists of our day–creates worlds, not works of art; he uses painting as a form of notation, to dream up an entire nation of which he is the sole demiurge and sovereign. His painting describes a possible universe: every canvas adds a new province and a new character to the gigantic human comedy that the artist has been constructing for years.”1 

    Executed in 2007, Untitled can in many ways be seen as an extension of Condo’s 2006 seminal painting Sketches of Jean Louis, which featured a monumental portrait of the fictitious French character Jean Louis. One of the most reoccurring protagonists in Condo’s repertoire of imagined figures, Jean Louis is a chameleon who at times is presented as a butler, chef, banker or maid. In Sketches of Jean Louis, Condo presents him sharply dressed, wearing a bowtie and a white collared shirt; his exaggerated face defined by a bulbous nose, protruding ears and a row of clearly defined teeth. 

    "Life in Condo’s work reveals itself to be both compromised and seductive, depraved and innocent, sophisticated and corrupt: it never dwindles down to a one-dimensional vision, but rather becomes an accumulation of opposing forces."
    —Massimiliano Gioni
    With the present work, Condo deconstructs the portrait into a multi-faceted, fragmented creature–pushing his idiom of “psychological cubism” to even greater heights. The overall figure has become almost entirely abstracted, propagated into a multitude of creatures. Perched on sloping shoulders is a medusa-like head that encompasses an entanglement of figures competing for attention. Within this cacophonous painting lie Cubist-like, syncopated faces with rows of exaggerated teeth and compressed chins and cheeks. Framing the head at-large is a cartoonish left ear and an oversized eye, featuring an olive-green iris and crimson pupil. While obfuscating any clear resemblance to Jean-Louis, Condo slyly integrates him in various points of the composition, as while as introducing Rodrigo, another reoccurring figure recognizable for his bulgy eyes. 


    Detail of the present work.

    Drawing from the disparate languages of Old Master painting and modern abstraction, Condo ingeniously merges the two traditions to create psychologically charged studies of real and imagined worlds. “I describe what I do as psychological cubism,” Condo has explained, “Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously. Like glimpsing a bus with one passenger howling over a joke they’re hearing down the phone, someone else asleep, someone else crying–I’ll put them all in one face.”2 

    Recognizing Condo’s accomplishment in works like Untitled and unrivaled contemporary influence, Holland Cotter singled Condo 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.”3 

    Condo describes his practice as, “dismantling of one reality and constructing another from the same parts,” to establish “a new conjunctive hyper-reality or hybrid image showing the simultaneous presences.” Untitled is a complex and sophisticated representation of form that exemplifies this breakdown of linear experience and perspective. Achieved with a commendable diversity of mark-making, it is among the works that set the foundation for Condo’s seminal series of portraits from 2013-2014 and anthologizes Condo’s considerable range within one work–from cartoonish, schematic faces, to more formal, painterly gestures. This bricolage reflects the oeuvre that has established Condo one of our generation’s most versatile painters. 


    George Condo at Work



    1 Massimiliano Gioni, “Physiognomic Fragments for the Promotion of Human Understanding and Monstrous Love,” in George Condo: la civilisation perdue, exh. cat., Musée Maillol, Paris, 2009, p. 57
    2 George Condo, quoted in S. Jeffries, “George Condo: ‘I was delirious. Nearly Died,’” The Guardian, February 10, 2014, online
    3 Holland Cotter, “A Mind Where Picasso Meets Looney Tunes,” The New York Times, January 27, 2011, online

    • Provenance

      Skarstedt, London
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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

Property from the Collection of Josh Brolin



signed and dated "Condo 07" on the overlap
oil, pencil and paper collage on canvas, in artist's frame
42 x 42 in. (106.7 x 106.7 cm)
Executed in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $816,500

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022