George Condo - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Stellan Holm Gallery, New York, Private Collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    George Condo began his career in New York as a painter in the early 1980s. His preferred genre has always been portraiture, but ones which, at first glance, evaluate art historical conventions. Closer inspection shows the artist’s paintings engaging in an exploration of comedy, tragedy, violence and sexuality to reveal the consciousness of the subjects. These subjects and characters, however, are derived from the fictional world of Condo’s imagination and have resulted in Artificial Realism, a style coined by the artist to describe his work.

    Condo’s portraits are invented, so-called ‘Pod people’ who appear like part-nightmare, part-cartoon hallucinatory figures. Coming from the Religious Paintings series of 2004, The Departure and The Arrival feature a priest appearing and disappearing through the clouds. Is the hanging carrot a Sword of Damacles or a dangling reward? Power is a double-edged sword: it is both irresistible and dangerous. The figure’s grotesque features, mid-way between a smile and a sneer, add to the tension and ambiguity. Metaphors slide with sarcasm and irony.

    Like most of Condo’s works, The Departure and The Arrival traverse the spectrum of art history, from the traditional gestural oil paint of the clouds to the focal figure, its face contorted and abstracted. Working in New York at the same time as Warhol and Basquiat, Condo was at first influenced by Pop art and the East Village subculture, but a significant period in Paris and Europe uncovered a wealth of inspiration from Old Master paintings through to Cubism. Throughout his works, painterly historical portraits are injected and subverted with a pseudo-cubist twist of the absurd, observing the artist’s feeling that “painting needs to transform in order for it to become interesting for each and every generation… more in terms of being liberated by history. Liberated by what has come before.” Replete with references from Bosch to Bacon, Velásquez to Picasso, Magritte to De Kooning, Condo is a painter’s painter, with a twist.

    “I was looking at the contemporary art scene and wondering what I could do to make a statement in a world where painting was relatively extinct. I wondered if you can take the rationality of Minimalism and Conceptualism and put it into what I like to do, which is simply paint. Inspired by Duchamp, I thought it would be interesting to create a kind of simulated found object, something that looked like a fake masterpiece – maybe one day it would become real.”

  • 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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Two works: (i) The Departure, 2004; (ii) The Arrival, 2004

Oil on canvas.
Each: 90 × 90 cm (35 3/8 × 35 3/8 in).
(i) Signed, titled and dated ‘Departure Condo 04’ on the reverse; (ii) signed and titled ‘Condo The Arrival’ on the reverse.

£300,000 - 400,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

12 October 2011