Juan Muñoz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Monday, June 25, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg; Lisbon, Museu Colecção Berardo, Silence: un propos de Marin Karmitz, 18 April 2009 - 10 January 2010, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Suspended in a state of hysterical laughter, Juan Muñoz’s work is characterised by an uncomfortable sense of entrapment, encapsulated in the gestural freeze-frame of One Laughing at the Red Ball. Fascinated by both human movement and the stillness of sculpture, Muñoz skilfully blurs the boundaries of these opposing conditions by creating a realistic interpretation of emotions, conveyed through the facial expression and body language of his figures. The present work, exhibited in 2010 at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lison, is a sculptural realisation of the artist’s examination of ‘the other’ and the ‘unheimlich’; a small and perfectly formed figure sits on a suspended chair, gripped and contorted in a state of hilarious mania, clutching a blood red ball.

    Creating an intriguing mise-en-scène, Muñoz’s mastery over his sculptural formulations are evident in the hyper-detailed face of his laughing figure, the rippled and textured stripes of his matching top and trousers and the awkward doubled positioning of the figure’s body, levitating in his proportioned chair. Muñoz’s nuanced rendering presents us with an uneasy spectacle, where we recognise the mirthfulness of the figure’s outburst but are not presented with the source of his amusement. The banal object of the ball clasped in his hand appears bright, colourful and shiny against the monotonal grey palette of his body, however appears perfectly regular in its appearance. It is this disconnect between the sculpture’s narrative and the heightened reaction of the seated figure, which prompts the viewer to speculate, evoking an uncanny disconnect between experience and understanding. Imbued with the artist’s interest in literature and poetry, namely the work of Jorge Luis Borges, Muñoz’s practice is inextricably linked with jarring narratives, creating visual junctures in our quotidian lives. ‘Taking the example of the so-called posa – a ritual temporary construction in traditional Peruvian peasant society – he described the situations he created as a “Crossroad. Place of transit. Space inscribed in its own exile. Interval”’ (Juan Muñoz, quoted in Dieter Schwarz, ‘Juan Muñoz, Juan Muñoz, exh. cat., Thomas Schütte Stiftung, Skupturenhalle in Neuss, 2018, p. 14).

    In the present work Muñoz seeks to disrupt the relationship between viewer and sculpture, while, at the same time, create a connection between the viewer’s subconscious experiences and figure’s unbridled outburst. The spectator is prompted to identify the figure as a ‘being’, both animated and conscious, while recognising it’s qualities as an object. There is a prominent and intentional sense of absence in One Laughing at the Red Ball, captured in the staged silence of the sculpture, as if the figure is imprisoned within a moment of time. It is the artist’s exploration of polarities and philosophical curiosity towards sculpture’s ability to manipulate emotion and natural response, which entices the viewer, inviting them to interact and engage with the figure. The similarities to, and suggestion of, human consciousness that the figure in Juan Muñoz’s One Laughing at the Red Ball evokes, induces uncertainty and brings to question the essence of what it means to be human. ‘His delight in devising enigmas, concocting illusions and spinning stories with which to engage the spectator in psychological gamesmanship is at once arcane and unprecedented in contemporary sculpture’ (Sheena Wagstaff, ‘A Mirror of Consciousness’ in Sheen Wagstaff ed., Juan Muñoz: A Retrospective, London, 2008, p. 96). Through the figure’s evocative stasis Muñoz expertly reverses the role of the spectator and object; suddenly we are looked at by the figure and realise that we are in fact the source of his laughter. It is this sculptural tension adroitly achieved by Muñoz which subsumes our gaze and compels us to explore the uncanny scene before us. Muñoz’s One Laughing at the Red Ball encourages the viewer to embark on a explorative journey of self-reflection, triggering a wholly personal viewing experience.


One Laughing at the Red Ball

Polyester resin, steel and leather chair, ball painted with red oil paint
117 x 48 x 60 cm (46 1/8 x 18 7/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2000.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 26 June 2018