George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, March 8, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
    Private Collection, Belgium

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, Xavier Hufkens, George Condo: Existential Portraits, 26 January - 4 March 2006, p. 37 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Celebrated for his highly stylized and explorative oeuvre, George Condo’s body of work is comprised of an amalgamation of paintings, sculptures and drawings that showcase his ability to create deeply complex artificial realities. Since the 1980s, Condo has pioneered a distinctly individual approach towards the human figure by embracing the traditional form of portrait painting, whilst rejecting its most formal and academic principles. The artist skilfully dissects his sitter by transforming the everyday human subject into disparate threatening psychological states, surrendering themselves to the painter’s visual interpretation. The present work emits both shock and delight; Condo’s unique pictorial inventions continue to surprise and, at times, horrify, suspending the viewer in a state of awe.

    Having first worked within Andy Warhol’s Factory as a writer and subsequently as a silk screener, Condo befriended prominent artists of the day, namely Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, though resolutely determined that he would not follow the post-Pop style. The artist’s earliest experimentations bare the hallmarks of the incredible effusion that the artist would develop throughout his practise. Most prominent in Condo’s works since 2000 is his increasingly troubling variation on conventional genres such as the portrait. Within his portraits, the artist presents an incredible selection of familiar subjects – from Madonnas and Clowns to cartoons and Playboy bunnies – all of which had previously existed only on the periphery of his consciousness. Reoccurring figures manifest throughout Condo’s portraiture, such as the artist's imaginary butler Jean Louis, alongside his accompanying host of relatives and acquaintances.

    The present work demonstrates the artist’s preoccupation with the female figure. Executed in the early twenty-first century, the portrait exemplifies Condo’s incomparable talent of turning the everyday figure into a mutation derived from his innermost imagination. Consistently painting whilst travelling throughout Europe, Condo develops his subjects from imaginary figures that manifested themselves in his mind during his travels.

    Painted in 2005, French Maid Variation typifies the artist’s portraits of this period. The motif of the French maid appears recurrently within the artist’s figurative work; having portrayed the service woman in several compositions, each time Condo varies the contorted pose, metamorphosing new grotesque facial structures. Within the present composition, the maid’s eye bulges out of the socket to directly meet the gaze of the viewer. Her entire body structure is nonsensical, from the snapping disfigured teeth to the contorted arm that emphasises the two-dimensionality of the canvas’ surface. A composite of various psychological states painted in opposing ways, the present portrait reflects the madness of everyday life.

    The artist’s imaginative and varied visual artistic language pays tribute to an amalgamation of canonical influences– from the eloquence of the Old Masters to the dynamism of Picasso’s Cubism. Throughout his oeuvre, Condo pays homage to Picasso’s work and in the 1980s coined the term ‘psychological cubism’ and ‘artificial realism’ to eloquently summarise his approach. Drawing upon the language of Modernist abstraction, Condo combines the vocabulary of the past with an innovative painterly edge which oscillates between abstraction and figuration. The mastery of Condo’s painterly technique, his strong characterisation of the figures set against a timeless backdrop, creates an effect that is both stylistically elegant and disturbing. The artist’s vision, embodied by the present work, uniquely and imaginatively re-contextualizes the canon of art history.

  • 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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Ο ◆149

French Maid Variation

signed and dated 'Condo '05' upper left; further signed, titled and dated 'Condo '05 "French Maid Variation"' on the reverse
oil on canvas, in artist's frame
132.2 x 115 cm (52 x 45 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2005.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £753,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 9 March 2018