Günther Förg - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Günther Förg is not an abstract painter. He is a romantic expressionist, the language of forms laconically borrowed, the colours singing ponderously like a church bell.”
    —Gilles Altieri

    Loaded, short, and spirited, enlivening paint through untrammelled, vertical strokes of the brush, Untitled exemplifies the final crescendo of Gunther Förg’s mature practice. Completed during Förg’s twilight years and offered for the first time at auction, Untitled is a rare and significant work belonging to the artist’s Tupfenbilder series, more commonly known as ‘Spot Paintings’. Across an uncompromising, four-decade long exploration of the artistic gesture, Förg aligns the seemingly mutually exclusive movements of Expressionism and Minimalism, uniting elemental purity with spontaneity and personal expression.

    “Grey is nothing: not white, not black. Something in between. Not concerned with the figure. Something free.”
    —Günther Förg

    From the onset of his practice, Förg’s application of grey was fundamental to his painting, a neutral tone used in the ground of Untitled to achieve harmony and coherence. Beginning with his training at The Academy of Fine Art, Munich in the early 1970s, Förg experimented with a range of media throughout his career. While earning a living as a house painter, in 1973 Förg commenced his first truly painterly experiments. Produced at a rate of one a week, like Gerhard Ritcher’s minimalist grey-scale paintings, Förg created grey and black monochromes, applying pigment with a sponge. For Förg his initial objective was ‘not so much to merely apply a coat of paint but rather to avoid an artistic handwriting in the sense of artistic mannerisms’, a mode of obliterating the hand.i



    At the turn of the twenty-first century, Förg began to paint with a renewed purpose, marking his ultimate exploration of expressive painting. Evolving from the more densely concentrated, geometric structures of his Grid and Window Paintings, Förg extracted shorter, simpler strokes in his Tupfenbilder or ‘Spot Paintings’. In part influenced by photographs of the dabbled walls in Francis Bacon’s South Kensington studio that the artist had used to remove excess paint from his brush, Förg adopted brighter colour and a looser, more traceable mode of mark-marking.


    Francis Bacon in his studio in 1974. Image: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo 

    Belonging to a series that concluded in 2010 after Förg suffered a devasting stroke, Untitled is suffused with a potent, kinetic energy. Rhythmic and lyrical, the interactions of a restricted, elemental palette of greens, whites, dark blue, grey, and plum tones reverberate across the composition, energising the painting’s surface. Working with a pace and intensity recalling the immediacy of Impressionistic renderings of light, colour, and movement, Förg emphasised the ‘factual’ quality of painting. Unlike the transcendental, sublime ambitions of Barnet Newman or Mark Rothko, materiality was essential to Förg’s vision. As the artist reflected, ‘For me, abstract art today is what one sees, and nothing more’.ii


    Collector’s Digest


    • Coming to prominence with the ‘Hetzler Boys’ Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger in 1980s and 1990s Germany, Günther Förg developed a distinctive approach to abstraction, reacting against the predominance of figurative painting.

    • Continuing to garner critical acclaim since his death in 2013, Förg’s works are held in significant permanent collections internationally including, among many others, the Tate Britain, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Stedelijk, Amsterdam and the Foundation Beyeler, Basel.

    • The subject of solo exhibitions globally, Förg’s most recent exhibition was held at the CAC Málaga and closed on the 25th May 2024.



    i Günther Förg, quoted in Florian Steininger, ‘Günther Förg – “The Painter’s Coat”’, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, exh. cat., Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, 2008, p. 13.

    ii Günther Förg, quoted in Florian Steininger, ‘Günther Förg – “The Painter’s Coat”’, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, exh. cat., Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, 2008, p. 13.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Literature

      Rudi Fuchs and Günther Förg, Günther Förg: Back and Forth, Cologne, 2008, p. 158 (illustrated, p. 64)

Property of an Important Private Dutch Collection



signed and dated 'Förg 07' upper left
oil and acrylic on canvas
200.2 x 190.2 cm (78 7/8 x 74 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2007, this work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as No. WVF.07.B.0202.

We thank Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.

Full Cataloguing

£300,000 - 500,000 ‡♠

Sold for £381,000

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
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Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024