John Chamberlain - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'It never occurred to me that having colour on sculpture was such a big number. I thought it was very obvious. All sculpture had colour, even if it was rust colour or just dull green or something. Whatever material was chosen was chosen because you were drawn to it.'
    —John Chamberlain
    Executed in 2007, Mezzomangle is a prime example of John Chamberlain’s oeuvre. It embodies his artistic vision of pushing the medium of sculpture into an entirely new realm. The painted steel exudes texture and velocity as the kaleidoscope of colour and material twists into a thick body of mass with upward spiralling strands. Through his unconventional approach using an unyielding material, the steel is transformed into a sight of complexity that draws in the observer with intrigue. It encourages the senses to untangle its wound being, strengthening the participation between artist, object and viewership.


    Chamberlain broke into the New York art scene in the late 1950s and was soon recognised and subsequently celebrated at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961 in the exhibition Art of Assemblage where his works were juxtaposed against Futurist, Surrealist and Cubist works. His use of automobile parts demonstrated a sense of beauty found in abandoned objects revealing their potential in artistic form. He later incorporated materials such as galvanised steel, urethane foam and mineral-coated Plexiglas into his practice, however always staying true to his methods of arranging compositions into seamless designs. Moving on from his previous body of work where rescued and found materials are reimagined and repurposed, Mezzomangle takes part in Chamberlain’s shift toward a more delicate and articulate use of painted steel. The creations from the last decade of his life were intended to be whimsical with each iteration resembling soft curves of ribbons. His expression of colour, weight and balance through materiality pays ode to movements such as Abstract Expressionism and alludes to elements of Pop art and Minimalism.


    In contrast to the ready identification with wrecked cars in his earlier creations, the present work articulates Chamberlain’s shift to imagining more ambiguous sculptural forms from his scrapped source material, questioning what sculpture can be. Mezzomangle is alive and frozen in place, a soaring tangle of metal forms bursting out and into one another but locked in sculptural stasis in a manner that exudes an imposing sense of presence.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
      Christie’s, New York, 4 May 2015, lot 569
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Property from an Important Belgian Collector



painted and chromium-plated steel
160 x 134.6 x 134.6 cm (62 7/8 x 52 7/8 x 52 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist


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

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021