Julian Pace - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "I think I’m more interested in the human form and the people rather than who they are necessarily."
    —Julian Pace


    Currently based in Los Angeles, rising star and self-taught artist Julian Pace interrogates the play on absurd yet deep-rooted themes of celebrity worship, identity, and self-absorption in contemporary society through grand and imposing large-scale portraiture. Representing the artist’s auction debut, the present work portrays the rapper and celebrity Kanye West, rendered through Pace’s characteristically exaggerated proportions, bold angularity, and highly textured application of paint. Included in his recent exhibition Julian Pace: Some Paintings held at Simchowitz Gallery in October 2021, Pace’s portrait of the iconic American public figure captures the graphic quality of his practice and the intersection of the traditional conventions of portraiture and mass media culture.


    Installation shot of Julian Pace’s solo exhibition Some Pictures with Simchowitz Gallery, Los Angeles, 2021.
    Installation shot of Julian Pace’s solo exhibition Some Paintings with Simchowitz Gallery, Los Angeles, 2021. Image: Courtesy Simchowitz Gallery, Los Angeles


    Playing With Portraiture

    In both their treatment and content, Pace’s portraits clearly demonstrate his deep interest in art history and the figure of the artist, underpinned by several formative years spent in Florence, a city at the heart of Italy’s Renaissance. Working primarily in traditional mediums and within the historical contexts of the genre, Pace places his portraits of contemporary celebrities such as Kanye West and Kendall Jenner alongside reinterpretations of some of the most immediately recognisable images from the Western art historical canon, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Lady with an Ermine.


    With his exaggerated frame filling the canvas, Pace here creates a visual analogue for the notoriety and candid persona of the titular ‘Kanye’ in a manner that recalls Pablo Picasso’s iconic 1906 portrait of the avant-garde writer and art collector Gertrude Stein. Like Picasso – a portrait of whom was included in Pace’s Some Paintings exhibition alongside the present work – the young artist generates a sense of solidity and monumentality through the reduction of the body to its volumetric masses, exaggerating certain features in this process. 

    Pablo Picasso, Portrait de Gertrude Stein (Portrait of Gertrude Stein), 1906, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022
    Left: Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022
    Right: Detail of the present work 


    The Cult of Celebrity


    Drawing sits at the foundation of Pace’s practice, allowing him to distil the blend of humour and careful observation that his work has become internationally recognised for. Working from these delicate sketches, Pace then skilfully enlarges his drawings on canvas, explaining that ‘scaling up means I can get into more abstraction in the details.’i One of two portraits of Kanye West produced during his time at The La Brea Studio Artists Residency, Pace here demonstrates his playful sense of colour and tone, his unique technical approach recreating the quality of his drawings in complex, textural ways. Depicted wearing an item from his own branded clothing line, ‘Kanye’ is a monument to the cult of the individual, compounded by the sweatshirt’s slogan ‘I like you you’re different’. In a society increasingly obsessed with the idea of the individual, and how we look, act, and present ourselves, Pace’s immediately arresting, larger-than-life portraits highlight the monumentalising effect of celebrity, a disarmingly literal take on the notion of blowing a sense of ourselves out of proportion as ‘the ego of the image seems to grow with the shoulders’.ii


    Andy Warhol, Marilyn, 1967, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

    In this respect, Pace’s work establishes a particularly robust dialogue with American Pop artist Andy Warhol, whose fascination with fame and tragedy, death and desire exposed not only the functioning of an incipient celebrity culture, but of something more fundamental at work in shaping 20th century American consciousness itself. Such observations have only become more relevant in our own image-saturated, digital age and moving seamlessly between contemporary celebrities, religious figures, and art historical references, Pace’s portraits further collapse the distinctions between high and low culture first interrogated by these mid-century Pop artists. 


    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in 1988, Julian Pace lived and worked in New York before being invited to take up a position with the La Brea Studio Residency in Los Angeles, which has hosted notable artists such as Amoako Boafo and Tschabalala Self.


    • The present work was included in Julian Pace: Some Paintings, the artist’s first solo exhibition with Simchowitz Gallery in 2021.


    • Marking only the beginning of his incredible artistic output, the artist’s most recent exhibition, Facial Recognition at Fabien Fryns Fine Art in Dubai, runs from the 18 May – 4 September 2022 which celebrates the significance of portraiture in the digital age.


    i Julian Pace, quoted in Evan Pricco, ‘Julian Pace The Big Picture’, Juxtapoz Magazine, 2021, online
    ii Evan Pricco, ‘Julian Pace The Big Picture’, Juxtapoz Magazine, 2021, online.  

    • Provenance

      Simchowitz Gallery, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Simchowitz Gallery, Julian Pace: Some Paintings, 9 - 30 October 2021



signed, titled, inscribed and dated ‘KANYE KANYE 63021 Julian Pace LOS ANGELES, CA 2021’ on the reverse
oil and acrylic on linen
233.7 x 162.6 cm (92 x 64 in.)
Painted on 30 June 2021.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 ‡♠

Sold for £113,400

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022