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

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  • In December of 1989, Jenny Holzer presented a groundbreaking exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, solidifying her place within the artistic milieu of the late 20th century. A retrospective of aphorisms and declarations programmed into a massive electronic sign ascended the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright stairway greeted by seventeen warm-toned Indian Red granite benches on the rotunda floor. Survival: Hide Under Water..., 1989, is one example from this series of bench works.

    “In an age of excess, it is increasingly difficult for artists to challenge us, yet Holzer does so.”
    —Diane Waldman
    The seminal 1989 exhibition presented Holzer’s work at an unprecedented scale, fully covering the iconic venue in her visual messaging. For the exhibition, the distinctly curved Survival: Hide Under Water... was arranged dramatically in a circular fashion amongst its sixteen counterparts. With the benches, Holzer created a space for visitors to pause and consider the electronic truisms. Rather than opting for more passive forms, however, Holzer created deliberate, multi-layered works loaded with enigmatic messages. Each bench is inscribed with a quote selected from the Survival series in a demonstration of Holzer’s facility with theatrical language and unique ability to create immersive art environments. These works proved her unparalleled ability to confront topics of cultural concern. So much so, the Guggenheim will present a reimagination of Holzer’s landmark 1989 installation in May of 2024.

    “If you want to reach a general audience, it's not art issues that are going to compel them to stop on their way to lunch, it has to be life issues.”
    —Jenny Holzer 

    Holzer stands as a central American artist to emerge during the transformative decades of the 1980s and 1990s, offering a unique exploration of the nature of viable public art. As a product of the age of television and advertising, Holzer probes the essence of originality as she utilizes language as a powerful visual element in her work. Holzer’s texts disrupt conventional narratives, challenge societal norms and comment on consumer society; their impact has reshaped the contemporary definition of art. Holzer’s texts, featured on familiar objects like billboards and benches, reflect intimate thoughts and worries with distinct candor and publicness. As noted by Michael Auping, Holzer “has successfully exploited the material frankness of Carl Andre, the seductively simple yet flashy surface of Donald Judd, and the eerie fluorescence of Dan Flavin," thereby transcending mere abstraction and infusing these elements with more personal and sincere content.

    • Provenance

      Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Christie's, New York, November 9, 2005, lot 573
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Jenny Holzer, December 12, 1989–February 11, 1990

    • Literature

      Jenny Holzer: The Venice Installation, exh. cat., The United States Pavilion, The 44th Venice Biennale, Venice, 1990, p. 24 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1989–1990 installation view illustrated)
      Jenny Holzer: Protect Protect, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Fondation Beyeler, Ostfildern, 2008, pp. 112–113 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1989–1990 installation view illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Jenny Holzer

      American • 1950

      Jenny Holzer is a Conceptual artist best known for her text-based public art projects. Holzer's work speaks of violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power, war and death. Throughout the years, Holzer has employed a variety of media, from a T-shirt to a plaque to an LED sign. Starting in the 1970s with the New York City posters, and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, she uses her art as a form of communication and commentary. Holzer's art hangs in important collections around the globe including 7 World Trade Center, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

      View More Works


Survival: Hide under water…

Indian Red granite bench
17 x 42 1/4 x 18 1/2 in. (43.2 x 107.3 x 47 cm)
Executed in 1989, this work is number 1 from an edition of 2 plus 1 artist's proof.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

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