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  • Overview

    'In the beginning I took fragments of architecture to create a person. Now I take a person and fragment them to make architecture.' —George Condo

    To look at a George Condo is to embark on a rich, multi-layered experience, whereby the pendulum swings from the macabre to the carnivalesque. The American artist’s The Age of Reason, drenched in vermillion red and rising almost two metres high, portrays a group of seven human silhouettes characteristically disassembled through a distorted, tortuous lens, attending to the emotional and psychological depth Condo’s work has become known for. Within the work, a myriad thin white lines emerge sporadically across the picture plane to create a distinct hodgepodge of eyes, grins, breasts and clenched hands. Together, these form what Condo has coined as ‘psychological cubism’ and ‘artificial realism’ – terms defining the conflation of art historical influences within his oeuvre. ‘Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment’, the artist exclaimed. ‘I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously… hysteria, joy, sadness, and desperation’.Impressive in size and chromatically feverish, The Age of Reason belongs to a group of large works that the artist produced between 2009 and 2010 known as Figure Compositions, heralding some of the best paintings from his mature opus.

     

    Detail of the present work.
     

    With its vivid details and splintered strokes, The Age of Reason most prominently echoes Pablo Picasso’s stylistically deconstructed scenes. Specifically, the Cubist master’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon comes to mind, as a group of female figures similarly deploys across a horizontal ground with dismantled features and curvy excrescences. Also evoked within the composition are Willem de Kooning’s slabs of colour and Keith Haring’s graffiti-infused aesthetic – both artists Condo has recognised as important influences within his work. Proliferating art historical allusions in both the figurative and abstract realms, the artist nonetheless eludes straightforward appropriation, instead reformulating the past through his unique aesthetic prism. As elucidated by the curator and author Laura Hoptman, ‘He [Condo] 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’.ii

     

    Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2020. Image: Bridgeman Images.
    Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2020. Image: Bridgeman Images.

    Building upon his admiration and love of previous artistic creations, Condo furthermore mingled with the realms of philosophy and literature – both in real life and on canvas – to endow further layers to his own psychologically charged images. In the present work, the title The Age of Reason notably echoes Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1945 existential novel of the same name, which probes the philosopher’s conception of freedom, and how free will operates within distinct social frameworks. Overarching the titular text’s narrative is the argument that a person’s freedom is unquestionable, as it fundamentally forms part of the nothingness that is the imagination. In this perspective, the unhinged dynamism of Condo’s composition perhaps posits as a mirror to Sartre’s ontological meditation, demonstrating the lengths to which one’s freedoms can go. Placing Condo’s inimitable psycho-social lens upon our existence, The Age of Reason displays the simulacrum of a scene – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – in its most orgiastic and liberated form.

     

    George Condo at Work
       


    iGeorge Condo, quoted in George Condo: Works on Paper, exh. cat., Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, 2015, press release reproduced online.
    iiLaura 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.

     

    Sold To Benefit the Bedari Foundation

     

    The Bedari Foundation works with partners to catalyze research, education and cutting-edge solutions to global challenges in mental health, environmental conservation and energy transition. We’re devoted to fostering a world where we minimize harm and maximize nurture for humans and the environment, and strive to empower people to have healthy, harmonious relationships with themselves, others and the planet.


    But right now, things are moving in the wrong direction.  The world is out of balance, and both people and the planet are suffering.  More stress and mental health problems, more disconnection and conflict, more planetary damage driven by unfettered consumption. We’re operating in a deficit of care – for ourselves and the earth. But this is where our work begins.


    We’re partnering with individuals and organizations who are coming up with big ideas to combat these challenges, including developing solutions that break cycles of personal and ecological harm. Our approach across mental health and wellness, environmental conservation and the energy transition is anchored in the tentpoles of respect, interdependency, balance and resiliency:


    •    We need to foster better whole health by elevating mental, emotional and spiritual wellness and care onto the same plane as physical health
     
    •    We need to reduce human threats to and develop a much more purposeful and strategic coexistence with habitats and species to preserve and protect biodiversity
     
    •    We must better balance our energy needs with preservation of the environment by pragmatically moving towards low carbon energy solutions and continuing to pursue sector innovation and invention


    By coupling first-class research, skilled partners and game-changing ideas, we’re ready to take big swings at these issues and make real change happen.
     

    Karingani:  The Bedari Foundation is one of the founders of Karingani, a partnership between conservationists, investors, philanthropists, government and local communities to rehabilitate and preserve one of Africa’s last remaining wilderness areas.  Karingani is dedicated to restoring and revitalizing the biodiversity of 150,000 hectares in Mozambique which holds strategic conservation importance reflected in both its location and the range of habitats it protects. Karingani’s footprint, which encompasses rivers, wetlands, woodlands and open savannah, sits at the crossroads of crucial trans-frontier conservation land, sharing a boundary with the world-famous Kruger National Park. This integrated area of conservation management facilitates wildlife movement between South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe giving Karingani and its partner communities a vital role to play in ensuring the ecological viability of the entire region. Karingani’s strategy for success is three-fold – pursuing comprehensive environmental restoration, conservation-informed ecotourism, and skills development, jobs creation and economic growth for our local communities.  Our unique model is fueled by multi-sector partnership at scale and working with government, NGOs, academia and private investors to unite our efforts around regional environmental and community vitality and restore one of the most important wildlife habitats in Africa.
     
    UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute:  Established in 2019 with a $20 million gift from The Bedari Foundation, The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is a new interdisciplinary organization dedicated to the research, education, and practice of kindness, with the goal of empowering citizens and leaders to invest in building more humane societies. The mission of The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is unique in that our goal is two-fold – we’re committed not only to engage in best-in-class research on kindness, but to strategically turn that learning into real-world practices through education and dynamic local, national and global partnerships. Said more simply, we don’t just want people to learn about kindness, we want people to DO kindness. The interdisciplinary research of the Institute will be accessed through deep engagement across UCLA and with strategic outside partners committed to advancing the understanding and practice of kindness globally.
     

    • Provenance

      Skarstedt Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, New York
      Private Collection
      Christie's, London, 11 February 2016, lot 53
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      George Condo

      American • 1957

      Few artists have dedicated their careers as singularly to one genre as George Condo has to that of portraiture. He is drawn to the endless inquiries posed by the aesthetics and formal considerations of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and the Old Masters. Emerging on the New York art scene in the 1980s alongside contemporaries such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Condo developed a distinctive visual lexicon that is unmistakably his own. 

      Student to Warhol, friend to Basquiat and collaborator with William S. Burroughs, Condo tracked a different path. The artist frequently cites Picasso as a predominant influence in his contemporary cubist compositions and joyous use of paint. Condo is known for postmodernist compositions staked in wit and the grotesque, which draw the eye into a highly imaginary world. 

      View More Works

Sold to Benefit The Bedari Foundation

Ο ◆13

The Age of Reason

signed and dated 'Condo 2010' on the reverse
oil and pastel on canvas
193.7 x 198.8 cm (76 1/4 x 78 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for £2,082,369

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020