Untitled

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
    Private Collection, Europe
    Christie's, London, 9 February 2006, lot 266
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, 15 March 2016, lot 105
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled, 1989, offers a glimpse into the sustained brilliance of Günther Förg’s practice, the simplicity of each composition begs an immediate visual absorption. The present work, completed after Förg’s extended break from painting, emerged at a pivotal juncture in the artist’s career. Considered one of the most important German artists to emerge the post-war period, Untitled is a testament to Förg’s relentless, multidisciplinary and complex artistic experimentation.

    From 1973 to 1979, Förg studied at the Academy of Fine Art, Munich, Germany, and experimented with a series of monochromatic wall paintings, striving to explore the legacy of the modernist aesthetic. These works paired geometrical stylistic elements with an expressionist evocation of mood, presenting a synthesis that frees the work from figuration. A testament to the endurance of the artist’s work, it is included in permanent collections around the world, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Tate Modern in London and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

    Förg’s vibrant arrangement also presents a deft reworking of the visual language of early twentieth century Suprematism. In Förg’s ordered and dynamic shapes we find, for instance, the reduction and simplicity of El Lissitzky’s pioneering graphic designs. At the same time, the artist’s paintings demonstrate an affinity with the pure abstraction championed by Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl movement. Through horizontal compositions and a paired-down formal vocabulary - such as that presented in Composition with Red and Blue, 1933 (Museum of Modern Art) - Mondrian sought a total visual harmony - a synchronisation also evoked in Förg’s sequential canvases. Each colour possesses a counterpart; each shape correspondingly, finds its foil. As a result, Förg creates a visual order which, with its puzzle-like structure of repeated shapes, seems to oscillate.

    Calling upon the aesthetics of Colour Field painting, Günther Förg’s use of absolute colour is magisterial in its boldness. Förg is simultaneously indebted to and divergent from the ‘sublime’ spatial arrangements of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko’s expansive works. As he explains, ‘Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and an order that for them had been lost. With Newman, one sees that in Broken Obelisk, Stations of the Cross and the design for a synagogue; with Rothko, in his paintings for the chapel in Houston. For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more’ (Günther Förg, in Günther Förg: Painting / Sculpture /Installation, exh. cat., Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1989, p. 6). Förg presents a new tangible and architectural branch of abstraction, devoid of underlying metaphysical or social ambitions. Favouring the formal architectural and material qualities of his work over the sublime aura of Colour Field painting, Förg’s works consider their architectural surrounding, and dramatise the relationship between the painted surface and the wall space.

    Engaging the bounds of painting and sculpture, throughout his short career, Förg’s experimented with bronze, lead, wood and other materials, challenging the materiality of surface in his work. Outlining his artistic practice in an interview, the artist explains: ‘Really, painting should be sexy. It should be sensual. These are things that will always escape the concept. I think painting is a resilient practice; if you look through the history of painting it doesn’t change so much and we always see it in the present. It is still now’ (Günther Förg, quoted in David Ryan, Talking Painting, Karlsruhe, 1997). Requiring the viewer to engage with the space within which the painting is presented, Untitled creates a new framework for visual experience; a framework which, even beyond the artist’s death, remains pertinent and continues to defy categorisation.

32

Property from an Important European Collector

Untitled

each signed, consecutively numbered and dated 'Förg 1-6 '89' on the reverse
acrylic on wood, in 6 parts, in artist's frames
each 92.5 x 52.7 cm (36 3/8 x 20 3/4 in.)
overall 195 x 177.5 cm (76 3/4 x 69 7/8 in.)

Executed in 1989, this work is registered with the archive number WVF.89.B.

Estimate
£200,000 - 300,000 

sold for £249,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018