Ilana Savdie - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Ilana Savdie is known for fluid compositions with lush palettes, exquisitely textured by her unique application of beeswax. Dusty pinks and hot magentas dominate her works, radiating in Deliberate Rotation of The Nips (y un Manguito), 2021. Electrifying oil and acrylic washes contrast with the hard-edge lines of the distorted body that gives the work its title. The formal fluidity of the abstracted breasts, dislocated nipples and cartoon-like lips parallels Savdie’s investigation of the fluidity of identity, rooted in her own position as a queer artist. In her work, reconfigurations of the body reflect the performative aspects of gender and their potential for imaginative disruptions. The freedom and flamboyance of the Carnaval de Barranquilla in Savdie’s hometown in Colombia also serves as a strong inspiration. The festivities’ costumes range from burlesque to political satire to grotesque figures like Marimondas, hooded characters with long noses and floppy ears. The themes broached in these costumes appear directly and indirectly in the work. As Savdie affirms: “There’s an overlap, and I don’t think it’s an accident that my brain has amalgamated all of that.”i


    Savdie is interested in power exchanges both conceptually and materially: the dynamics of interpersonal relationships mirror the zones of control and surrender across her canvas. In the present example, there are moments where the artist asserts control and moments that are left to chance. Savdie’s method of pouring beeswax allows the viscous substance to dry without intervention, resulting in richly wrinkled, free-form texture that is delineated from the prismatic abstracted figure by a sharp contour. For Savdie, painting is a channel for bodily awareness: “I can pervert, rescale, reconfigure, and reroute the paths of power in figures that co-exist intimately on the canvas as contrasting textures, gestures, and colors.” The dislocated parts “displace the equilibrium of power and dependence.”ii


    In her rejection of binaries, Savdie describes herself as a promoter of things that are amorphous or leaking: “I like to exploit and fetishize paint whenever it behaves corporeally—the leaks, the sags, wrinkles—whenever it feels wet and dry, seductive and repulsive.”iii Her interest in distorting images is partially a counteraction to a past job as a photo retoucher in the beauty industry. Savdie recounts being “fascinated by the act of using encoded tools to find a kind of bodily utopia that will never be achieved. I was making skin smoother, lighter, thinner, more elastic.”iv Occupying an alternative, utopic space, her paintings are freed from the parameters of reality.


    Ilana Savdie was born in Barranquilla, Colombia and raised in Miami. She lives and works in New York. She was the subject of a solo exhibition, Radical Contractions, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York this year. Widely acclaimed, her work was included in group shows at The Drawing Center, New York; Ballroom Marfa; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles just this year alone. Savdie has held recent gallery shows at White Cube, London; Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles; and Deli Gallery, New York.



    i Ilana Savdie quoted in Steph Eckardt, “In the Studio with Ilana Savdie, the Artist Testing the Body’s Limits,” W Magazine, July 7, 2022, online

    ii Ilana Savdie, Michael Kohn Gallery, online.

    iii Ilana Savdie quoted in Trey Kyeremeh, “Ilana Savdie - Making Your Own Gods,” Metal, online.

    iv Ibid

    • Provenance

      Courtesy of the Artist and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
      Two x Two For AIDS and Art, Dallas, October 11–October 22, 2021, lot 99
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Deliberate Rotation of The Nips (y un Manguito)

signed, titled and dated "Ilana Savdie "Deliberate rotation of the nips (y un manguito)" 2021" on the reverse; signed, titled and dated "Ilana Savdie 2021 "Deliberate Rotation of the nips (y un manguito" on the overlap
oil, acrylic and beeswax on canvas over board
12 x 16 1/4 in. (30.5 x 41.3 cm)
Executed in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $69,850

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig 
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023