Ian Wallace - Out of the Blue: The Enea Righi Collection London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'I wanted to create a new language of modern art. (…) I wanted to draw on the tradition of painting, but embrace the latest technologies and ideas in photography, and open art to the possibilities of new values and new ways of seeing. With my work, I seek to ask ‘what is possible to think through art?’' —Ian WallaceBorn in Shoreham, England, in 1943, raised and educated in Canada, Ian Wallace is one of the most influential artists of the Post-War period, a catalyst of some of the main expressions of conceptual art and photography. Artist, writer and lecturer at the University of British Columbia and at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Wallace was instrumental in the development of what is informally known as the ‘Vancouver School’ of photo conceptualism, together with his former students and colleagues Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Ken Lum and Stan Douglas.


    Executed in 1990, Construction site (Veronique), is an iconic example of Wallace’s artistic choices. It combines the investigation of abstraction with the photojournalistic research of the metropolis- ‘ruins in reverse’ and ‘landscapes of incompleteness’, as defined by Robert Smithson. The diptych consisting of two canvases is part of the series My Heroes in the Street where Wallace photographed his artist friends in the city. In the present work, French photographer Veronique Corme is the main subject in front of a construction site- a space of choice selected by the artist in his ongoing dialogue on tension within the urban sphere and structural forces of modern life.

    'The motif of the construction site provided pictorial metaphors for poetic and political themes that were often contradictory, and thus offered a fertile vehicle for varied interpretation and conceptual mutation.' —Ian WallaceBeginning in the 1970s, Wallace made a synthesis, unprecedented at the time, between the practices of conceptual art and the examination of the image and the photographic medium, engaging in a dialogue with the modernist ideology and the notion of the avant-garde. His research spanned from different themes, such as the definition of style, the theories and dynamics of art criticism, as well as the inclusion and legitimation of a work within the canons of art history.


    In spite of his early interest in the practice of art, the aptitude for research and study initially led Wallace to follow the academic path, specialising in history of art. His strong background later became the foundation of his own artistic production. For Ian Wallace, history of art is not only a tool for comparative analysis, helpful to contextualise a work, but also a vital element necessary to define the dynamics of the contemporary world.

    'I had just really come to the end of it, and I began switching to other ideas of what a painting could be, what a picture could be. It was very difficult to use painting to reflect on the world, so photography felt like a way to comment on the world in a more political way. Not directly, it was very indirect.' —Ian WallaceParallel to this career in academia, Wallace experimented with abstract, monochrome painting and with photography. He wanted to investigate the relationship between such media, with a focus on their narrative, cinematographic and literary aspects. Wallace retrospectively divided his photographic themes in three categories -the studio, the process of making a work and the museum. The museum representing the public space where the work is exhibited contrasting the street, the synergy of buildings and single individuals. According to the artist, the modern metropolis, with its complex views of the cityscape and reflections in shop windows becomes the absorbing container of the everyday.


    Essay written by Antonio Scoccimarro, Editor Mousse Magazine & Publishing


    Installation shot: Venice, Palazzo Fortuni, Quand fondra la neige où ira le blanc, 4 June - 10 October 2016. Left: Ian Wallace, Construction Site I (Veronique)  Right: Daniel Buren, Peinture acrylique blanche sur tissu rayé blanc et orange.  Image: © Antonio Maniscalco
    Installation shot: Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, Quand fondra la neige où ira le blanc, 4 June - 10 October 2016. Left: Ian Wallace, Construction Site I (Veronique) Right: Daniel Buren, Peinture acrylique blanche sur tissu rayé blanc et orange. Image: © Antonio Maniscalco
    • Provenance

      Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

    • Exhibited

      Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, Quand fondra la neige, où ira le blanc, 4 June – 6 November 2016

    • Literature

      Bolzano, Museion, Che Cosa Sono Le Nuvole?, 21 March - 19 September 2010, p. 267 (illustrated, pp. 254 - 255)


Construction Site I (Veronique)

signed, stamped with the artist's stamp and dated 'Ian Wallace 90' on the reverse of the left part; signed, stamped with the artist's stamp, titled, inscribed and dated 'Ian Wallace 90 Ian Wallace 1990 Construction Site I (right panel)’ on the reverse of the right part
acrylic, photolaminate and ink monoprint on canvas, diptych
left part 203.3 x 152.5 cm (80 x 60 in.)
right part 203.1 x 152.6 cm (79 7/8 x 60 1/8 in.)
overall 203.2 x 305.1 cm (80 x 120 1/8 in.)

Executed in 1990.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for £18,900

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065

Out of the Blue: The Enea Righi Collection

London Auction 16 April 2021