George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 3, 2023 | Phillips
  • “People might say, that one of my paintings looks like Guston meets Monet in a Picasso format in Cezanne’s world, but ultimately I consider it to be just about the knowledge of painting. You want to reach a point where your work is the sum total of everything that ever happened before you.”
    —George Condo

    Executed in 1986, Black Dots – Playing on a Landscape, is a prime example of George Condo’s early work. It showcases the artist’s curiosity, experimenting with a variety of modes of representation, combining – at times – overstepping different genres.  The present work is a beautifully vivid mustard composition, showcasing as the humorous title suggests, a selection of black dots playing in an indistinguishable background. The composition, seemingly flat at first glance, upon closer inspection reveals a selection of layers executed in differing shades of ochre and offers the viewer varying fields of depth. What at first seemed like an unreadable composition, transforms into an inviting and lyrical playground for the viewer to become a part of.


    George Condo was born in 1957 in New Hampshire and his work is widely celebrated for its varied and unique style, synthesising different aesthetic elements across various artistic movements such as Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism that intertwine to create his own style and interpretation of art.

    “I was born in the late ’50s, during the time of Barnett Newman and Willem de Kooning. I look at painting from the position of reconstructing abstraction into realism.”
    —George Condo

    In Black Dots – Playing on a Landscape, Condo provides the viewer with a lyrically abstract composition that is increasingly reminiscent of Arshile Gorky’s oeuvre. The Plough and the Song, painted in 1947 by Gorky, depicts a mesmerising infusion of mustard yellows, blacks, greens and reds that bleed into one another. Resulting in an indecipherable grouping of shapes that echo a similar sense of playful mystery to Condo’s present work. Arshile Gorky whose paintings have been described with the term ‘lyrical abstraction’ evidently acted as a source of inspiration for Condo while creating Black Dots- Playing on a Landscape, both sharing similarities in colour palette choices and compositional structure. Within the present work however, Condo – as he has done with a multitude of works within this oeuvre – has added his own element of individuality and humour in the form of dancing figures, some of which have added facial features that remind one of Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning.


    Arshile Gorky, The Plough and the Song, oil on canvas, 1947, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio


    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Switzerland
      Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      St. Moritz, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, George Condo, 10 December 2011 - 14 April 2012

    • Artist Biography

      George Condo


      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


Black Dots - Playing on a Landscape

signed and dated 'Condo 86' lower right; signed, titled and dated 'Black dots playing on a landscape Condo 86' on the reverse
oil and pastel on canvas
110.4 x 150.4 cm (43 1/2 x 59 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1986.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £241,300

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 March 2023