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  • 'The only way for me to feel the difference between every other artist and me is to use every other artist to become me.' —George CondoPainted in 1989, Gold Nude is a striking example of George Condo’s persistent interventions in the art historical conventions of figurative painting. The seated female nude, depicted with crossed legs and arms stretched above her rounded head, is expressed through amalgamated references to the pictorial syntaxes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Countering a Duchampian notion of appropriation that imports ‘ready-made’ images and objects into new contexts, Condo disassembles the figurative languages of the two artists and reimagines their constituent components within his own ‘iconic form of painting’.He explains that this approach is not intended to mimic the great painters of the past, but is rather designed to produce ‘something strong enough and recognizable enough as being my own’.ii Indeed, while the rounded legs of the figure echo Matisse’s nudes of the 1930s, the angular abstracted arms recall Picasso’s formal experimentation with the disassembly of the body, and the dappled background evokes the glistening canvases of Gustav Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’. The American artist paints through these references to produce a distinctly contemporary work: ‘The idea is to take all the information from every painting I like in history and to put it all back together in an original way’.iii
     

    Henri Matisse, Pink Nude (Lage Reclining Nude), 1935, oil on canvas. Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: © 2021. DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence. © Succession H. Matisse/ DACS 2021.

    'I believe that painting needs to transform in order for it to become interesting for each and every generation, but I think of it more in terms of being liberated by history. Liberated by what has come before.' —George Condo 

    Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image : © 2021. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2021.

    Gold Nude was painted four years after the artist moved to Paris from New York where he had immersed himself in the lively art scene of the 1980s – briefly working as a diamond duster in Andy Warhol’s Factory and conducting close friendships with artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat. Newly situated in Paris, Condo cultivated his knowledge of European art historical references, engaging closely with the work Picasso produced in the first decades of the twentieth century. The Spanish artist’s influence on Condo’s practice in this period is most directly discernible in a series of painted and drawn heads executed in an appropriated Cubist idiom (a stylistic experiment to which the American artist would return in the mid-2000s), and in a number of distorted female figures. In the latter works, the diminutive heads and elongated arms of the women blur the line between figuration and abstraction. This experimental reconfiguration of the proportions of the human body in the late 1980s anticipates the exaggerated corporeal elements of the uncanny pictorial species that populate Condo’s canvases in the 1990s and 2000s. Named the ‘antipodes’, these figures evidence the development of the American artist’s enduring investigation into the possibilities of portraiture also conducted through his Picassoesque nudes. 


    While both embodying and transcending its art historical references, Gold Nude encapsulates the joyous energy of Condo’s painterly technique. Gold paint drips luxuriously over the variegated tawny-brown and pink flesh, while daubs of electric blue detail the woman’s breasts and facial features. In turn, the violet passage contained within the angular space of the figure’s crooked elbow offsets the blunt green brushstrokes that circle her head. As exemplified by the present work, it is precisely this imaginative fusion of recognisable stylistic motifs and Condo’s own unique painterly exuberance that has propelled the artist to the forefront of contemporary American painting. 

     

    George Condo discusses the development of his artistic practice and how he conceives of his work within art historical contexts. 

     

    Collector's Digest

     

    •    A solo exhibition of Condo’s recent work will be on show across both of Hauser & Wirth’s gallery spaces in London from 13 October through 23 December 2021.

     

    •    George Condo: The Picture Gallery, the largest solo exhibition by the artist in Asia, is currently on view at Long Museum in Shanghai until 28 November 2021.


    i George Condo, quoted in Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, p. 14
    ii Ibid.
    iii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
      Private Collection, Midwestern United States (acquired from the above in July 1989)
      Phillips, New York, 15 May 2019, lot 368
      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. 

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Gold Nude

signed 'Condo' lower right
oil on canvas
199.8 x 180 cm (78 5/8 x 70 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1989.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £478,800

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021