George Condo - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Any great artist is a sum total of the artists who came before him. Picasso’s 'Seated Bather' comes straight out of Renoir and there’s reference to David and 'Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe' by Manet. It’s an identity thing – everybody wants to feel like an individual, but we’re part of a continuum, whether we like it or not.”
    —George Condo

    In a period when the discipline of figurative painting was eclipsed by advances in conceptual art and abstraction, George Condo revitalised the medium through a careful and humorous appropriation of Old and Modern Masters fused with Pop culture references and reimagined in the artist’s highly distinctive visual style. Like his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Condo worked to combine stylistically representational and abstract elements, developing a mode of ‘Artificial Realism’ that was entirely his own. Swerving between Baroque theatricality, Cubist experiments in simultaneity and form, and Surrealist juxtaposition, Condo’s wildly inventive portraits are freed from the constraints of physical or anatomical likeness, populated by a host of strange figures characterised by exaggerated overbites, oversized ears, and bulging eyes - ‘Antipodal Beings’ from the far-flung edges of psychological experience.

    “It's what I call artificial realism. That's what I do. I try to depict a character's train of thoughts simultaneously – hysteria, joy, sadness, desperation. If you could see these things at once that would be like what I'm trying to make you see in my art.”
    —George Condo

    Often taking on the menial roles of butler, maid, chauffeur, or janitor, this strange cast of characters allowed Condo to visually expose the tensions between the composed face a subject might have to present to the world, and the more complex internal feelings shifting beneath the surface, embodying ‘the despair, the heartache, the love and the happiness of any of us.'i Such a strikingly original approach to notions of simultaneity also emphasises the supreme influence of the great modern master Pablo Picasso on Condo’s work over the years, a comparison made by Condo himself, who explained: ‘Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. […] 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.’ii


    Painted in 2005, Seated Bather takes these connections even further, drawing immediate compositional comparisons to Picasso’s pivotal series of nude bathers from the late 1920s and early 1930s. Although the motif of the nude bather had been a recurrent feature across Picasso’s oeuvre, his stylistic approach during this important period combined Cubist and more Surrealist elements with great dexterity and novelty. Applying a similar stylistic approach, Condo’s Seated Bather stands in a particularly close compositional relationship to Picasso’s Baigneuse Assise from 1930, now held in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In both paintings, a single, female figure sits in profile, alone against a sparse backdrop of sky, sea, and sand. In both, the angularity of the figure is exaggerated through the arrangement of the sitter’s limbs and the sharp contrast established between the bended knee and softer, more rounded forms. Just as Picasso fractured the body to reach a deeper understanding of its volumetric form, drawing himself into dialogue with both classical art and modern modes of experimentation, Condo’s similarly amalgamative approach has enabled the artist to pursue the complex and contradictory realities of our psychological lives, figures who ‘swing between abjection, pathos and absurdity, conjuring dehumanised subjects who nevertheless seem ‘acutely aware of their own predicament […] disenfranchised characters helplessly resisting their own alienation.’iii


    Collector’s Digest


    • George Condo was born in 1957 in Concord, New Hampshire. Since his major international travelling mid-career survey Mental States in 2011, Condo has continued to exhibit widely, representing the United States at the 2013 and 2019 International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia. 

    • More recently, the artist was honoured with his largest show to date in Asia, held at the Long Museum, Shanghai in 2021.

    • Now represented by Hauser & Wirth, his paintings are held in important international collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., amongst others.



    i George Condo, quoted in Ralph Rugoff, ‘The Enigma of Jean Louis’, George Condo, Existential Portraits: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings 2005/2006, Berlin, 2006, p. 13.

    ii George Condo, quoted in Stuart Jeffries, ‘George Condo: I was delirious. Nearly died.’, The Guardian, 10 February 2014, online.

    iii Ralph Rugoff, ‘The Mental States of America’, in George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2011, p. 18.

    • Provenance

      de Pury & Luxembourg, Zürich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

    • Exhibited

      Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Zwei Sammler – Thomas Olbricht und Harald Falckenberg, 24 June-21 August 2011
      Brussels, Charles Riva Collection, George Condo, 18 April-17 August 2018

    • Literature

      George Condo: Existential Portraits: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings 2005/2006, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, p. 136 (illustrated, p. 101)

    • 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

Property of a Prominent Private European Collection


Seated Bather

signed and dated 'Condo 05' upper left
oil on canvas, in artist's frame
154.5 x 137 cm (60 7/8 x 53 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £508,000

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024