George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection, United States
    Edward Tyler Nahem, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    A quintessential example of George Condo’s singular and iconic approach to portraiture, Dreaming Nude, 2006, belongs to the handful of paintings from the artist’s seminal Existential Portraits series that tackle the grand tradition of the reclining nude. Painting entirely from his imagination and art historical memory, Condo synthesizes influences ranging from Old Master painting to Cubism with a sensibility informed by popular culture, to construct a surreal scene. It is almost as if the languorous nude depicted in the drawing at center has jumped out of its frame to materialize into an otherworldly, distinctly Condo-esque creature. Echoing the reclining pose of the drawing, the figure seductively raises one arm behind her head and holds a glass of red wine in the other. True to Condo’s penchant for exaggeration and distortion, however, the woman’s face has been transformed into a twisted mask of bulbous cheeks, menacing fangs and bulging eyes that meets our scrutiny with a confrontational gaze. Showcasing both Condo’s remarkable draughtsmanship and virtuoso handling of paint, Dreaming Nude set the foundation for the artist’s celebrated Drawing Paintings from 2011 and 2012.

    The theme of the reclining nude represents a key recurring motif in Condo’s oeuvre since the artist’s emergence as a figurative painter on the New York art scene nearly four decades ago. Having explored the subject matter in the late 1980s and early 1990s vis-à-vis Picasso’s nudes, in the mid-2000s Condo revisited the genre with a handful of paintings that took as their point of departure Francisco Goya’s La Maja desnuda, 1795-1800, and Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863. Both paintings radically subverted the conventions of a genre that advocated classical ideals of nudity – La Maja desnuda notably representing the first work of Western art to display pubic hair and Olympia arguably depicting a visibly nude woman within a contemporary setting whose straightforward gaze confronted the viewer.

    Condo takes these trailblazing works as a point of departure, loosely echoing compositional elements as he constructs a woman who similarly confronts us with a defiant stare that implicates the viewer with an attitude that, as Ralph Rugoff observed, “deflates the voyeuristic impulse in our looking, as well as our tendency to project ourselves into an image. Instead it seems to lay the ground for some kind of exchange in a way that goes back to Manet’s Olympia, and the effect of her confrontational gaze” (Ralph Rugoff, George Condo, Existential Portraits, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, p. 9). Dreaming Nude is exceptional in Condo’s oeuvre for the way in which it explicitly addresses the loaded history of the gaze through the multiple depictions of reclining nudes: as seen in the foreground; in the framed drawing at center that also features a nude man reminiscent of Condo’s recurring character, the “disapproving butler” named Rodrigo; and yet another picture depicted in the background of that very drawing itself. Ultimately, however, the female nude appears to reclaim her agency.

    Demonstrating Condo’s penchant for exaggeration and distortion, the figure’s physiognomy confronts us with a threatening gaze reminiscent of Willem de Kooning’s women or the screaming heads in Picasso’s Guernica, 1937 – one that does not merely challenge the male gaze of art history, but in fact attacks it with a jarring, animal-like snarl. In its palpable psychological intensity, Dreaming Nude is exemplary of Condo’s approach to portraiture as a type of “Psychological Cubism”. Just like Picasso embraced multiple viewpoints in his cubist portraits of his muses – which Condo slyly mimics in the drawing at center – Condo incorporates a multitude of extreme mental vicissitudes.

    Dreaming Nude is one of the most conceptually arresting paintings in Condo’s oeuvre for the way in which it speaks to its own condition of being a painted representation. Echoing René Magritte’s surrealist strategies, Condo achieves this not only by the mise-en-abyme of multiple pictures of reclining nudes, but also through the confetti of white dots which create the trompe-l'œil effect of a starry sky when they hover in front of the blue wall, yet simultaneously appear like snowflakes when they accumulate into little mounds on the woman’s body. Destabilizing notions of illusion and reality, Dreaming Nude masterfully fuses a century-old subject with the distorted geometric perspectives of Cubism and the trompe-l'œil of Surrealism to delve into the existential depths of the human psyche.

  • 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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Dreaming Nude

signed and dated "Condo 06" on the reverse
oil on canvas
72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 2006.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $1,095,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2018