George Condo - Contemporary Day Sale London Wednesday, July 2, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art Day Auction, 14 November 2012, Lot 499
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The traditional and the modern coalesce in the work of George Condo – his work is a fresh, psychologically intense take on the classical genre of portrait painting. Condo moved to New York from Paris in the 1980s where he, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and other East Village artists, revived the medium of painting. His work rigorously challenges the limits of portraiture in a manner reminiscent of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Although clearly embedded in the portraiture tradition of Old Master painting, Young Sailor is unquestionably contemporary. He aims to ‘depict a character's train of thoughts simultaneously – hysteria, joy, sadness, desperation’ rather than to simply represent their physical appearance. The artist coined the phrase ‘artificial realism’ to describe his work, arguing that although his portraits are not visually realistic in a traditional sense, they present a psychological realism that is yet more potent.

    Condo achieves psychological intensity through the distortion of the facial features of his sitters, their faces either distorted by grotesque or absurd exaggerations, or, as exemplified by Young Sailor, disfigured by cubist shapes. Condo acknowledges his debt to Picasso in these works: ‘Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously.’ Condo’s portraits reflect his personal vision of the world and the people around him: ‘my objective is to portray the strangeness that I feel, and the strangeness that I see is the strangeness that is around me.’ The obliterated features of the Young Sailor not only obscure the sitter’s emotions but also the viewer’s emotional response to the image – humour, sympathy, disgust or intrigue. Thus, Condo demonstrates the potential of the portrait to express and incite an unending range of feelings and sensations.

  • 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.

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The Young Sailor

oil on linen
101.6 x 81.3 cm (40 x 32 in.)
Signed and dated 'George Condo 2012' upper left.

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £422,500

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

Contemporary Day Sale

London Auction 3 July 2014 2PM