Joel Mesler - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “I want to give goodness out into the world.”
    — Joel Mesler


    Employing stylised patterns, letters, and symbols that are simultaneously personal to the artist and universally accessible, Joel Melser’s graphically refined visual language has captured the attention of the contemporary art world, with his top 3 results at auction already achieved in 2022. The present work, Untitled (S) brilliantly illustrates Mesler’s distinctive approach, presenting the viewer with a well-balanced composition backgrounded by a bold, banana-leaf pattern that takes its inspiration from the iconic Martinique wallpaper in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Rendered in ruby-red at the centre of the canvas are two layered serpents who gaze out at the viewer from behind wide eyes.



    Andy Warhol, Dollar Sign, 1982
    Sold by Phillips, Hong Kong, 8 June 2020 for HK$6,542,000 (Premium)


    With one snake ruler-straight and one swirled into the shape of a letter S, their striking bodies merge to form a large dollar sign, immediately calling to mind Andy Warhol’s Pop Art explorations of the symbol. For Warhol, who was fascinated with commodity culture, the “$” shape represented its very essence—cash—and he used it as a motif to represent the crucial intersections between art and wealth. Contrastingly, as made evident by his 2018 solo show at Simon Lee in London titled The Alphabet of Creation (For Now), Mesler adopts the snake as a special vehicle to weave form and text into his work, such as the dollar symbol in Untitled (S).


    Though remaining relatively ambiguous, in combining the currency shaped vipers with the overlapping banana leaf pattern iconised by the glamorous Beverly Hills Hotel—a place famous for playing host to Hollywood royalty—perhaps Untitled (S) draws from Mesler’s wry humour to, like Warhol, evoke satirical ideas of value, wealth, consumerism, and the ideology of the American dream. This reading is further supplemented by the snakes in present works symbolically referencing the devious serpent in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, who tempts Eve to sin and taste a forbidden fruit, resulting in the pair being cast out of their paradise home in the Garden of Eden.


    Defendente Ferrari, Eve Tempted by the Serpent, circa 1520-25
    Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, United States


    Touted as one of the most recognisable prints in the world that has become synonymous with Southern California style, Mesler’s inclusion of the Martinique pattern also marks a more personal link to the artist. In particular, a memory of a family Easter brunch at the Polo Bar of the hotel, held just at the start of his parent’s long divorce. The meal abruptly came to an end when his father tossed the dining table, ‘splattering eggs Benedict on his wife’s lap and shouting “I can’t take it anymore!” Eleven-year-old Joel chased his manic father out the door while his mother followed behind in their tan Mercedes station wagon’. As Mesler has since explained, ‘I remembered scratching the wallpaper, having it in my nails’, instantly deciding ‘this is where my next body of work is coming from’i. At the same time, whilst the leafy design is further reminiscent of the lush imagery of Paul Gauguin or Henri Rousseau, Mesler imbues it with a laidback, feel-good style that is unique to the artist, and resonates with the deep yearning for relaxation in our fast-paced, modern life.


    Interior of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, showcasing the famous Martinique wallpaper print


    Following his resoundingly successful exhibition hosted by Lévy Gorvy in Hong Kong (23 June – 14 August 2021), which marked the artist’s first solo show in Asia, Mesler has recently presented a solo show at LGDR in both Palm Beach and London. Titled Joel Mesler: Pool Party, the exhibition ran 12 February – 19 March 2022. Mesler has also recently exhibited at the David Kordandsky Gallery in Los Angeles with a sold-out show titled Joel Mesler: Surrender in 2021.



    i Joel Mesler, quoted in ‘The Alphabet of Creation (For Now) Press Release’, Simon Lee, 2018, online 



    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection


Untitled (S)

signed, inscribed and dated 'The EstAte of Joel Mesler Joel Mesler 2017 The Estate of Joel Mesler' on the overlap
pigment on linen
177.6 x 127.2 cm. (69 7/8 x 50 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,512,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 21 June 2022