George Condo - New Now London Thursday, July 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • So everything that I love or am interested in or am impressed by in art goes into my work […] It’s really about reconstructive as opposed to deconstructive art: bringing the inter-relationships of languages in art together in a single canvas. My intention when I go into a work is to make people aware of all the great things I think there still are to draw from in painting.”
    —George Condo


    Fractured faces, distorted reality, and a clear reverence for art historical tradition, George Condo is one of the most recognisable and celebrated contemporary artists. Emerging from the art scene of 80s New York, Condo coined the term ‘artificial realism’ to describe his artistic style. With reference to 19th and 20th century titans such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, and  Édouard Manet, Condo argues that ‘the only way to feel the difference between every other and me is to use other artists to become me’.i In 1986 Wilfried Dickhoff described Condo’s work as ‘figurative abstraction’, acknowledging the artist’s use of abstract principles to build recognisable figurative scenes.ii Painted only six years later, the present piece falls within this early period of Condo’s oeuvre, which sees a radical reinterpretation of familiar art historical references and styles.


    The notion of ‘Visitation’ evoked by the title is a clear biblical reference that has a long history of artistic representation. It refers to the Gospel According to Luke (1:39-56), where a pregnant Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth - also pregnant with St. John the Baptist. In the present work two figures, reconstructed using fragmented and angular lines, can be seen to be embracing. Despite the initial abstracted appearance of the work, there is evidence of Condo’s study of traditional depictions of the scene, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Visitation from 1491. As the two women meet, Ghirlandaio choose to frame them with golden halos, immediately signalling their sacred importance. Condo reinterprets this by situating his figures beneath an explosion of gold that envelops the two in an apparent shower of divinity. Other elements from traditional works, such as Ghirlandaio’s, are included by Condo to help place the work within the realm of figurative abstraction; the undulating folds of the women’s dresses and the rough architectural impression in the background serve to give the viewer a contextual suggestion through which they may begin to interpret the scene.


    Domenico Ghirlandaio, Visitation, Louvre Museum, France

     Oscillating between the old and the new, Condo reinterprets this biblical subject matter through the lens of his own appreciation of 20th century artistic trends. The geometric line work and earthy palette is redolent of the synthetic cubism of modern masters such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, and Condo seamlessly adapts and utilises this aesthetic in a way that retains his own artistic integrity. Simon Baker has emphasised this by arguing ‘what is at stake is not Condo’s ability to copy or riff on Picasso, but rather his relentless curiosity about his techniques, obsessions and iconic forms’.iii Nevertheless, ruptured corporeal constructions, a pair of bulging eyes, and a surreal green top hat demonstrate the young artist’s developing signature style.


    Condo’s analytical selection and reconstruction of artistic technique creates a work that is at once fragmented in its appearance, and united in its reinterpretation of the long history of art preceding it. He demonstrates a fusion of traditional motifs and styles through the lens of his contemporary vision in a way that creates ‘a sort of harmony out of things that seem diametrically opposed’.iv It is this dissonant cooperation that makes his works so unique.



    i Emily Nathan, ‘artnet Asks: George Condo Sees Faces and Screaming Heads Everywhere’, artnet, 14 October 2015, Online.

    ii Wilfried W. Dickhoff, George Condo, New York, 1986, p.4

    iii Simon Baker, Condo, London, 2015, p. 47

    iv Emily Nathan, ‘artnet Asks: George Condo Sees Faces and Screaming Heads Everywhere’, artnet, 14 October 2015, Online.

    • Provenance

      Galería Salvador Riera, Barcelona​
      Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
      Private Collection​, Europe (acquired from the above)
      Christie's, London, 28 June 2018​, lot 201
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Barcelona, Galería Salvador Riera, Condo, 1992, no. 54, pp. 30, 54 (illustrated, p. 31)

    • 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, titled, inscribed and dated 'Visitation Condo 1992 N.YC' on the reverse
oil on canvas
183.5 x 91.2 cm (72 1/4 x 35 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1992.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £105,410

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
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New Now

London Auction 13 July 2023