George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | Phillips

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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


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    • 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

      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

Sold to Benefit The Bedari Foundation


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

£2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for £2,082,369

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020