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  • Catalogue Essay

    “I agree with the quote from Bill Hicks: ‘I believe that there is an equality to all humanity. We all suck.’” —— Joan Cornellà 

    Joan Cornellà and his work, Untitled #23, sold by Phillips Hong Kong for HK$352,800, March 2021


    Barcelona-born artist Joan Cornellà once described himself as “a fulltime smiling person” and “a Caucasian man with two legs and halitosis” i. Such deadpan humour emerges in full force in his comics and paintings, which illustrate devastatingly bleak narratives in a pretty pastel palette, coupled with a host of grinning characters.


    With an amassed social following of nearly 8 million, the works of Cornellà have found undeniable universal resonance. With no topic too taboo, too gory or scatological, Cornellà’s comical universe is the very definition of tragicomedy, embodying the nihilistic absurdity of experience and existence. Caught in the most horrific of circumstances, ranging from suicide, murder, to other scenes of flippant brutality, his characters are willfully oblivious, with lips pulled back in a soulless smile, blank eyes like pinhole voids.


    Installation view of the current work at San Francisco, Spoke Art Gallery, Joan Cornellà, 3-26 March 2016


    Cornellà’s macabre satire comments on the grimmer side of human nature, touching on social and political critique. The casual displays of hyperviolence, always to comical effect, address contemporary issues of the subtle everyday violence often occurring, if not perpetuated, by our ignorance – the violence of being enslaved to capitalist machinery, the violence of wealth inequality, racism, sexism, and even of human loneliness. The candour of Cornellà’s work functions as a cathartic outlet for viewers. His determination to find the laughter within calamity is ardent proof of living.


    The current work, Untitled #5, shows a man keying a car with a screwdriver. In classic mute fashion the man smiles toothily at the viewer, conveying the simple pleasures of destruction while the text on the car door simultaneously alludes to the pains of commerciality. The sale of what is rendered unsellable from artificial damage can be read as a commentary on consumerism, but Cornella’s pleasant colours and sleek composition please the eye, and it becomes tempting to gloss over the embedded message, to enjoy the artifice instead.


    Joan Cornellà has been on view across the globe in Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris, New York and London. He lives and works in Barcelona. 


    i Joan Cornellà as quoted in ‘Joan Cornellà: Interview’, Original-Signature, June 2014, online

    • Provenance

      Spoke Art Gallery, San Francisco
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      San Francisco, Spoke Art Gallery, Joan Cornellà, 3-26 March 2016

    • Literature

      Joan Cornellà, Everyone Dies Alone, 2019 (illustrated)


Untitled #5

signed 'Joan Cornella' lower right
acrylic on canvas
60 x 60.2 cm. (23 5/8 x 23 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2016, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Spoke Art Gallery.

Full Cataloguing

HK$100,000 - 200,000 

Sold for HK$302,400

Contact Specialist

Hin Hin Wong
Associate Specialist, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2013
[email protected]
Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2031
[email protected]

Charlene Lau
Head of Jewels, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2039
[email protected]

INTERSECT: Online Auction

Online Auction 16 - 23 September 2021