Günther Förg - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 13, 2022 | Phillips
  • Painted in 2004, during a period of great critical acclaim, Untitled centres Förg’s unique brushstrokes as the protagonist of the canvas, letting the artist's meticulously organised structure, guide the viewer through the composition. Each period of the artist's oeuvre has very distinct characteristics, smoothly transitioning from one to another. Within the present work, we become part of Förg’s ongoing interest in physical space and architecture, which eventually evolved into a series titled Grid Paintings
    "The Bauhaus is an icon of modernism. It represents modernity.  It represents beauty with its sleek lines, it represents rationality. Steel, glass, concrete, windows. Those windows in particular, the structure of the windowpanes is something Günther Förg included in many of his works. Windows are an important theme in visual arts... A window offers a framework through which you look at reality. Förg plays with that idea because there is no view beyond his windows in his paintings. In the end they are just structures."i
    —Stedelijk Museum

    The Bauhaus school at Dessau, Germany, with the workshop wing at left and the students' studios at right. Designed by Walter Gropius. Photograph, c.1926.
    The Bauhaus school at Dessau, Germany, with the workshop wing at left and the students' studios at right. Designed by Walter Gropius. Photograph, c.1926. Image: Granger / Bridgeman Images

    The influence of Bauhaus is distinctly present within this composition, and we can see the evolution of architectural interest experienced by the artist throughout the ‘Gitterbilder‘Grid Paintings’ body of works. The level of structure and precision provided by the rigid grid-like forms of Untitled is intensified with earthy tones of off-white, forest green, gold-like yellow, deep brown and black. The viewer is given the opportunity to contemplate the explicit contrast between Förg’s meticulous use of line and colour, and the way the two effect our interpretation of physical space.


    Born in Füssen, Germany, in 1952, it was not long before Günther Förg was drawn to his artistic path. By 1970s the artist was emerging into the German art scene, after completing his formal training at The Academy of Fine Art in Munich. Förg having always experimented with mediums, initially beginning with photography and painting, ultimately developed a signature painterly style that was not only recognisable but also entirely his own. Propelled forward in his explorations of conceptualism, he gathered with him, many refined techniques that ensured his iconic colour abstractions could come into fruition when he fully abandoned minimalism. With highly expressive brushwork he used grid-like marks, interwoven into intricate webs of colour, to mark up his canvases in patterns of obscurity and intrigue.


    Grid Paintings


    The trajectory of his artistic production took him away from the formal boundaries of minimalism and figuration when, into the 21st century, he embraced the unlimiting possibilities of abstraction. It was here that his Grid Painting series was first conceived. Förg’s Grid paintings are the direct outcome of his interest in the works of the expressionist Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. The present work pays homage to Munch’s handling of flat areas of colour within his works. This comparison is made vividly apparent when looking at the brushstrokes and cross hatched lines in Munch’s The Death of Marat II (1907) alongside the present example. Förg’s abstracted work utilises a similar colour palette of oranges, greens, whites, and warm yellows. Drawing from Munch, Förg removes varying spatial depths, his layered linear brushstrokes leave white voids that seemingly replace the forms of the figures in Munch’s historical portrayal.


    By fully adopting the potential of absence, Förg’s canvases became split up through areas of hyperactivity and peaceful serenity. Sharp, definitive markings slice through the composition, openly calling to attention the actions of the hand of their maker. The results are compositions that demand their existence, self-determined uses of space that celebrate Förg’s remarkable juxtaposition of colour. The Grid Paintings are highly expressionist works and, in a way, celebrate the circular nature of the History of Art. Having spent the majority of his life engaged in either the formal or informal study of Art History, Förg was acutely aware of the artistic practice of aesthetic recycling.


    Installation view of Closer at Gio Marconi, Milan, 2012
    Installation view of Closer at Gio Marconi, Milan, 2012. Artwork: © Estate Günther Förg, Suisse / DACS 2022

    "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

    i ‘Günther Förg: A Fragile Beauty, Stedelijk Museum’, YouTube, 25 June 2018, online.

    • Provenance

      Greene Naftali, New York
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated 'Förg 04' upper right
acrylic on canvas
210.3 x 195.5 cm (82 3/4 x 76 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2004, this work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as No. WVF.04.B.0003.

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

Full Cataloguing

£350,000 - 550,000 ‡♠

Sold for £441,000

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Simon Tovey

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 13 October 2022