Günther Förg - New Now London Thursday, December 9, 2021 | Phillips

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  • '[The] spots became more and more abstract. He learned that they have a three-dimensional level on each spot. They are not just dots on a canvas. They are planned and precisely worked out on an empty field.'
    —Michael Neff
    Painterly daubs of carefully considered colourful constellations decorate the monochromatic grey painted background. Executed in 2001, Untitled is a poignant example that preempts the significant and celebrated Spot Painting series that Günther Förg adopted late in his career, and an expansion of the Grid Paintings that the artist began in the 1990s.

    Exhibited in Berlin at Galerie Mikael Andersen’s exhibition Günther Förg: Works 1988-2007 in 2020, Untitled is a vivid and playful testimony to Förg’s personal relationship with the Danish gallerist and collector. Andersen is deeply committed to the artists he supports, and this obligation materialised in the physical space of his Studio House, designed by Henning Larsen in Vejby Strand, where painters like Shara Hughes, Eddie Martinez, Tom Anholt and Förg himself resided and worked during several summers. The treasured relationship between the two men is evident in the below image, and the painted grey background of the present example can be seen to the lower left, before the colourful dots were added.


    Günther Förg with Mikael Andersen at Andersen’s Studio House in Vejby, Denmark. © Mikael Andersen


    The use of grey in Untitled  harks to the artist’s early grey paintings that he created from the late 1970s and continues as an essential recurring element throughout his celebrated and diverse oeuvre. As highlighted by Michael Neff,  ‘These gray paintings are a kind of red line through his whole career. Gray was also a refusal of everything: art, colors, nature. It is ultimately a mix of all colors and carries no meaning at the same time. Günther liked the idea of gray in general. He did not work on gray colors – he just took the gray he had in his mind. But he experimented with different materials and the color gray! Lead (of course), canvas, wood panels, paper, these gave him different impressions on gray colors. And every ten years he worked on a new series of gray paintings…’i  Fundamentally, Förg’s use of grey represents a neutral foundation from which he formulated his works.
    'Grey is nothing: not white, not black. Something in between. Not concerned with the figure. Something free.' —Günther Förg
    Accompanying his dedication to grey, throughout his artistic practice, Förg pursued an investigation in colour and form, evident in the expressive, dynamic brushstrokes and dashes of colour which make up Untitled. Drawing from the plethora of art history, Förg reflected on works from Philip Guston to Edvard Munch, Mark Rothko’s colour field painting and Barnett Newman, uniting and transforming these practices into a profoundly unique visual language. Förg furthered the American Abstract Expressionists’ process, transforming the vertical lines of Newman’s zip works into a spirited, chromatic rhythm which floats and dances across the surface in the present example.


    Barnett Newman, Concord, 1949, Metropolitan
    Museum of Art, New York, Image: © Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © The Barnett Newman Foundation, New York / DACS, London 2021

    'The paintings are like poems instead of constructions; the colours unfold and expose each other, like a line of verse pushes the next line into profile. Sometimes they even rhyme.' —Rudi Fuchs 
    The visceral colours and textured dots against the grey backdrop in Untitled are a poetic homage to Förg’s artistic inspirations and a devotion to the formal purism of colour in his own oeuvre. 

    i Michael Neff in conversation with Florian Berk, quoted in London, Hauser & Wirth, Three Paintings – Three Decades: Günther Förg, January 2019, online 

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Günther Förg: Works 1988 - 2007, 13 March - 3 June 2020




signed and dated 'Förg '01' upper right
acrylic on canvas
200.2 x 200.2 cm (78 7/8 x 78 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2001, this work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as no. WVF.01.B.0626.

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 £378,000

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Simon Tovey
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New Now

London Auction 9 December 2021