George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    George Condo, 'Untitled', Lot 7

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
    Private Collection
    Sprüth Magers, Berlin
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, Xavier Hufkens, George Condo: Works on Paper, 29 May - 11 July 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    Consistently referred to as one of America’s most influential contemporary artists, George Condo has left an indelible mark on the development of visual culture. In Untitled, 2015, the artist masterfully restrains the densely-layered planes that constitute the depicted figure with a controlled palette of primary colours, alluding to the Cubist titan Pablo Picasso whilst simultaneously bringing to mind the Modernist master Piet Mondrian, whose primary grids provided an antidote to the formal freedom of his Cubist contemporaries. Condo boldly combines the two artists’ stylistic signatures into a wholly new piece, all the while retaining the idiosyncratic ‘Condo’ stamp that makes the work unmistakably his. The result is a formally-stunning androgynous face which teases the viewer’s assumptions on the definition of portraiture.

    Since his emergence onto the 1980s New York art scene alongside figures such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Condo has consolidated his place as one of his generation’s leading artists. Like Haring and Basquiat, Condo was critically engaged throughout the eighties in a new form of figurative painting that stylistically blended the representational and the abstract. Commenting on Condo’s prodigious absorption of the canon, Laura Hoptman draws attention to the artist’s ‘astonishing ability to channel an art-history primer’s worth of artists. He uses the language of modernist abstraction like a palette: Matisse, Klee, Tanguy, Gorky, de Kooning, Pollock and Picasso – always Picasso, whose vocabulary is the basis for all the others’ (Laura Hoptman, ‘Abstraction as a State of Mind’ in George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New Museum, New York and Hayward Gallery, London, 2011, p. 24).

    Yet Condo steers clear of straightforward appropriation, or anything that could subject him to accusations of being derivative; he goes far beyond homage and pastiche and instead reformulates the past through his unique aesthetic prism. ‘He is not a painter of appropriated imagery; nor is he a shoot-to-kill hunter of art-historical father figures. He is more like a philologist – a collector, admirer and lover of languages – in this case, languages of representation. […] Just as Manet would emulate – and send up – Titian, and Picasso would furiously tackle the subjects of Velázquez and Manet, Condo re-imagines Picasso’s portraits and de Kooning’s human-scapes as a challenge. Significantly, if one compares any one of Condo’s paintings directly with its putative source, one finds very little resemblance between them’ (Laura Hoptman, ‘Abstraction as a State of Mind’, George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New Museum, New York and Hayward Gallery, London, 2011, pp. 24-27).

    Indeed, despite the self-evident parallels between the Cubist master and Condo, the latter imbues his portraits with an additional layer of considerable inner complexity, which he describes with the self-coined neologism of Psychological Cubism. ‘Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously… hysteria, joy, sadness, and 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, quoted in George Condo: Works on Paper, exh. cat., Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, 2015, press release reproduced online). To look at a Condo is to embark on a rich, multi-layered experience which prompts new discoveries with every subsequent encounter, the pendulum swinging from the macabre to the carnivalesque. His influence can already be seen in the works of the generation which followed, such as John Currin, Glenn Brown and Lisa Yuskavage – a testament to their conviction in his enduring relevance.

    Untitled underscores the centrality of works on paper within Condo’s oeuvre. Rejecting any notion of a hierarchy between the traditionally-separated media of canvas and paper, Condo is a true virtuoso, working across different formats, scales and surfaces. Here, Condo brazenly applies a medium typically limited to canvas to one typically used for pencil and ink, blurring further artistic boundaries which previously privileged demarcated categories.

    Condo’s paintings have been the subject of several critically-lauded exhibitions, notably his spectacular travelling mid-career survey, Mental States (2011-12) at New York’s New Museum and London’s Hayward Gallery. His works on paper have been the subject of stand-alone shows, most recently the major retrospective, The Way I Think, at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC (2017) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek (2017). Untitled is being presented on the heels of Condo’s participation at the 58th Venice Biennale this year.

  • 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.

    View More Works

Property from a Distinguished Los Angeles Collection

Ο ◆7


signed and dated 'Condo 2015' upper left
oilstick and acrylic on paper
153.9 x 107 cm (60 5/8 x 42 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2015.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £471,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019