Günther Förg - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'The painting are like poems instead of constructions; the colours unfold and expose each other, like a line of verse pushes the next into profile.' —Rudi Fuchs 

    Fascinated with modernism and its legacies throughout his career, Günther Förg developed a sustained investigation into the behaviour of colour and structure that is carried across from his early black and grey monochromes to the dynamic and variegated Spot Paintings. Belonging to this significant series, the present work is characterised by loose scrawls of pigment in staccato formations that vibrate across the vast expanse of the brilliant white ground. Deftly combining chromatic hues of bright cobalt and chartreuse with grounding tones of rusty reds, and chestnut browns, Förg frees colour from the confinements of line and shape. Endowing the piece with a remarkably airy yet architectural quality, Förg masterfully employs negative space to unify and establish harmonies between the disparate passages of colour. The effect of this on such a monumental scale is vibrantly energetic and atmospheric.


    Spot Paintings:

    'He found out that the spots became more and more abstract. He learned that they have a three-dimensional level on each spot. There are not just dots on a canvas. They are planned and precisely worked out on an empty field. The bigger the spot paintings, the more perfect the spots were sitting on the painting.' —Michael NeffCreated between 2007 and 2009, Förg’s Spot Paintings are among the final works that the artist created and represent the culmination of a career-defining exploration of the interactions between colour and form. Recording a loosening of the more rigid lattice frameworks employed in his earlier Grid and Window paintings, the works belonging to this cycle possess a raw immediacy, thanks to their looser, more gestural handling. At once structured and relaxed, the meticulous construction of the concentrated brushstrokes recalls the spatial organisation and commitment to questions of density, colour, light, and form demonstrated by Paul Cézanne’s late landscapes. The same fracturing and flattening of pictorial space is evident in the present work, and like Cézanne, Förg is able to convey a masterful balance of solidity and lightness with a seemingly effortless touch. His manipulation of light and deeply intuitive sense of colour also recalls the French Post-Impressionist masters, testament to his ‘serious and sustained (though never fully credulous) commitment to the twentieth century’s endlessly generative legacy’.i


    CAPTION: Paul Cezanne, Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1904-05 Bridgeman Images CAPTION: Jasper Johns, Map, 1963, the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Paul Cezanne, Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1904-05 Bridgeman Images.
    Jasper Johns, Map, 1963, the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    Although many of Förg’s German contemporaries approached the art of the past with detached irony and cultivated a self-styled model of ‘bad painting’, the artist moved against these trends in his more thoughtful approach to compositional and stylistic questions. Moving against the dominant trend towards figurative painting during this period, Förg’s approach absorbed the lessons of American Abstract Expressionism, particularly the Colour Field experiments of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Helen Frankenthaler. Pushing forward these artist’s investigations into the spatial relationships of colour, Untitled is invested with a striking vitality, the carefully arranged and animated forms appearing forging relationships and abstract dialogues across the vast canvas.  The all-over gestural and calligraphic approach pioneered by Cy Twombly would also prove to be instructive for Förg, whose ‘atomistic, if aggregated, marks – also evoke writing’.ii Despite this rich tapestry of art-historical references, he developed an entirely unique language that is immediately recognisable. As Mikael Anderson has aptly described, ‘Förg’s Spot Paintings have looked at the entire history of art — from Philip Guston to Munch and Rothko — and transformed it into a singular expression, undoubtedly his own.’1


    In its lyrical arrangement of colours and shapes into lively, legible compositions, the present work is an archetypal example of this pioneering artist’s novel form of materiality. Belonging to an important body of work examined more closely in a survey exhibition by Greene Naftali in 2012, Untitled is a lively example of Förg’s committed investigation into the act of painting itself, a career-long investigation that found its most joyous expression in the gestural fields of animated brushstrokes that make up his Spot Paintings.


    Collector’s Digest

    •    As well as major solo shows at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art , and the Fondation Beyeler, Günther Förg has also just opened a solo exhibition ‘Constellations of Colour’ with Galerie Max Hetzler in London.


    •    Förg’s work now resides in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern, London.


    •    Förg's works has been widely exhibited internationally. In 1992, he was represented at the documenta art fair, and in 1996, he won the Wolfgang Hahn Prize.


    i Lloyd Wise, ‘Günther Förg: A Fragile Beauty’, Artforum, May 2018, online.
    ii Suzanne Hudson, ‘Gunter Förg: Greene Naftali Gallery, Artforum March 2012, online.

    1  Mikael Anderson in Conversation with Kirsten MacDonald

    • Provenance

      Estate of Günther Förg
      Greene Naftali, New York
      Private Collection, Italy
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Ohne Titel

signed and dated 'Förg 08' upper left
acrylic on canvas
174.9 x 200 cm (68 7/8 x 78 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2008, this work is recorded in the archive of Günther Förg as no. WVF 08.B.0034.

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 - 450,000 ‡♠

Sold for £615,400

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021