Glenn Brown - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
    Private Collection, The Netherlands (acquired from the above)

  • Exhibited

    London, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown, 15 October - 27 November 2009
    Budapest, Ludwig Muzeum, Glenn Brown (survey), 6 February - 11 April 2010
    Geneva, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown: Etchings and Sculpture, 9 June - 23 July 2011

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘We trawl art history around with us whether we like it or not. There’s no escape – but it’s not really a prison.’ – Glenn Brown

    One of the country’s most influential contemporary artists, 2000 Turner-prize nominee Glenn Brown continues to challenge and celebrate the palpable potential of oil paint. A ‘sculpture made of brush-marks’, the The Organ Grinder, 2009, transforms paint into performance – a canvas surface extracted and grappled into a battered, viscous mass. One of the original Young British Artists, Brown has achieved international acclaim through his provocative defiance of convention – yet, this is precisely what the London-based artist’s oeuvre is founded upon. With its tussled form and lumpen texture, The Organ Grinder appears to have literally ‘trawled’ through an immense history of art, and emerges, now, dishevelled and entirely unfettered.

    Whilst Brown’s sculptures are scarcer than his painted works, they remain central to his artistic practice. The inspiration for Brown’s The Organ Grinder originates from an unknown work by the Camden Town painter, Walter Sickert. In the early twentieth century, Sickert advocated the use of a ‘heavily clogged brush’ and a vibrant camaïeu painting technique to generate expressive tonal contrasts. In the present work we find tinctures of Sickert’s emerald, cobalt and viridian green; lashings of rose pink and crimson, ripped from their painterly surface and translated into a colourful heap – a poke at Sickert’s proclamation in 1914 that ‘thick oil-paint is the most undecorative matter in the world’ (Walter Sickert, quoted in, Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, 25 June 1914, p. 383).

    Brown’s sculptural painting also pays homage to the visceral, impasto works of the School of London artist, Frank Auerbach. Brown’s ravaged monument is a testament to the artist’s desire to push and reconfigure the boundaries of the medium; his paint assumes a life of its own and inserts itself within the viewer’s space. The brutalised structures of Brown’s ‘three-dimensional paintings’ are also analogous to the Art Brut, or ‘rough art’ style of Jean Fautrier’s Hostage series. Documenting the ruthless cruelty inflicted upon French prisoners under the Nazi Regime, Fautrier’s Head of a Hostage, 1944, depicts an anonymous head – scored, thumbed and scraped to suggest mutilated flesh. Brown’s thrashed creature, as the artist himself mentions in an interview, is a ‘manifestation’ of this raw, highly emotive aesthetic.

    The work’s title, The Organ Grinder, is inherently ambiguous, denoting both ‘a street musician’ and ‘a person in control of another’ – a double-entendre which refers, more broadly, to the subversion and appropriation which exists at the core of Brown’s artistic project. Ultimately, Brown creates a work which is at once fluid and tactile, and celebrates the potentiality of its own medium. Embellishing and engulfing pre-existing bronze sculptures in elaborately thick layers of paint, Brown brings his structures to the very brink of collapse, representing ‘the internal world of the figure…as if a figure is turned inside out and the mental and physical become mixed up’ (Glenn Brown, quoted in ‘Conversation between: Glenn Brown & Bice Curiger’, Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Foundation Van Gogh, Arles, 2016, p. 66).


The Organ Grinder

signed and dated 'Glenn Brown '09' on the base
oil and acrylic on metal armature
sculpture 95 x 75.2 x 61.7 cm (37 3/8 x 29 5/8 x 24 1/4 in.)
overall 212.2 x 107.9 x 87.2 cm (83 1/2 x 42 1/2 x 34 3/8 in.)

Executed in 2009.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £237,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 October 2018