Harold Ancart - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'To me, the understanding of form is the understanding of colour. This is what the visual environment is made of: masses of colours that overlap, blend, assemble, or dissociate from one another, and that generate forms.'
    —Harold Ancart

    Teeming with Harold Ancart’s signature motifs and vibrant colour in an otherworldly landscape, Untitled from 2015 beautifully embodies the artist’s painterly style for which he has become so highly regarded. Strongly identifying with an individualized notion of the flâneur as ‘one who walks around and tries to isolate poetic moments out of the everyday urban landscape,’ Ancart has created a specific visual lexicon that is at once familiar and jarringly surreal.i Slightly distorted shapes, manipulated horizon lines, and inverted colour schemes challenge viewers to examine the world in new and different ways, as if through a pair of dazzlingly psychedelic lenses. 


    Planet of Painting


    André Derain, The Turning Road, L’Estaque, 1906, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Image: © Museum of Fine Arts, Houston / Museum purchase funded by Audrey Jones Beck / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022


    Although the present work evokes the vibrant canvases and formal experiments of early 20th century forebears such as the Fauves and Die Brucke, Untitled determinedly stands as a singularly individual exemplar of Ancart’s oeuvre. Born in Brussels in 1980, Ancart was a passionate artist even as a child, passing his school days by sketching and scribbling during class; as an art student at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre, he firmly rebelled against the late 20th century ethos that painting was dead. Rather than turn to alternative artistic practices, as many of his contemporaries did, Ancart instead has plunged into the medium of painting with the same vigour exhibited during his primary school years. Uninspired by the dominant trend of post-conceptualism in Europe, Ancart relocated to New York, the openness and diversity of which prompted the artist to adopt it as his new home.

    'This is the planet of painting, after all, and Ancart’s space exploration is the exploration of painted space.'
    —Chinnie Ding

    Dazzling and kaleidoscopic, Untitled from 2015 is a pre-eminent example of Ancart’s confident handling of colour. Like a midnight sun rising to its apex, the central circular form sends chromatic shards across this supernatural landscape in which light and dark, paint and negative space vie for supremacy. In a celestial symphony of the heavens, the monolithic form of the moon is counterpointed against fractured bursts of lemon-yellow sunbeams. Tactile brushstrokes of red and black paint dance across the creamy sky like a shower of meteors and stars. Within the central circle, a patch of deep blue bleeds into brushed red, into orange and finally yellow, suggesting a window into a different landscape – perhaps the setting sun of another planet in this astral scene. Sprawling across the lower register of the painting, a sea of rich, saturated colour surges in an eye-wateringly bright maelstrom of paint that evokes the palette of post-Impressionist masters and the uncanny atmosphere of René Magritte’s Surrealism. Against the depth of black paint, swathes of gold, ochre, aquamarine, scarlet and bubble-gum pink stream into one another, moving like the rainbow patterns of oil on water. The artist’s signature trees shoot towards the sky, their lush fronds sharpened into focus by the geometrically blocked ebony outline. Juxtaposition features in the best of Ancart’s practice: representation versus abstraction, the exotic and the familiar, flattened space and infinite depth, day and night, heaven and earth, the supernatural and the real, all tensions exquisitely reflected in the present work.


    René Magritte, The Banquet, 1958, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image: akg-images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    Detail of the present work 


    Although suggestive of a phantasmagorical dreamscape, Untitled ultimately celebrates the beauty found in nature every day. Whether zooming into such minute details of quotidian objects – as in his matchstick paintings – or turning outward to nature in his iceberg paintings – Ancart captures and transforms the mundane into the majestic, prompting the viewer to in turn see the world anew. ‘His paintings hypostatize his en plein air expeditions into the subconscious as obsessive, bold, increasingly overlapping strokes of oil sticks. The final compositions bear the physicality of their making and conjure forms that sometimes appear like objects from our environment. Often they arrive as in the fractal vision of an acid trip – first like towers, then fire, then crystals, then desert plants and mountains. The ambiguity encourages the eye to make its own travels.ii


    Collector’s Digest. 


    •    Born in Belgium in 1980, the New York-based Harold Ancart uses a vast array of media in creating complex pictorial worlds and sculptural installations. 


    •    Ancart has already succeeded in carving out a role for himself in the contemporary art world; examples of his work belong to esteemed museum collections worldwide including The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Menil Collection in Houston, the Musée National d’Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, among others.


    •    Ancart has been the subject of several important exhibitions, including Harold Ancart: Untitled (there is no there there), held at The Menil Collection, Houston, in 2016, and the 2020 solo exhibition with David Zwirner held across both of their New York Galleries. 


    i Harold Ancart, Julia Felsenthal, ‘Harold Ancart Brings His Kaleidoscopic Trees to Chelsea,’ T Magazine, 8 September 2020
    ii Kat Herriman, ‘Back and Forth with Artist Harold Ancart,’ Cultured, 29 April 2019

    • Provenance

      CLEARING, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from a Private European Collection



oil stick on paper, in artist's frame
134 x 180 cm (52 3/4 x 70 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 ‡♠

Sold for £504,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022