Julian Schnabel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips

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  • A superb example of Julian Schnabel’s titular series of five works from 1989, Canard De Chaine coalesces history’s most enduring art-making materials, such as oil and gesso, with unconventional materials such as velvet and banner, exemplifying the artist's quintessential break from tradition. The present work makes reference in both title and form to the satirical French newspaper Le Canard enchaîné (“the chained duck”), famous for its farcical and unyielding commentary on international politics and government censorship. While Le Canard enchaîné is itself a play on words—“canard” is French slang for newspaper—Schnabel unravels its grammar further by switching the prefix “en” to “de.” Indeed, Canard de Chain even adopts the vertical format of a newspaper, its title appearing at the top as a publication name and the skeleton appearing as a lead image.


    At its core, Canard De Chaine is a painting about painting. This word play evokes both Marcel Duchamp's signature tongue-in-cheek approach as well as Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912, the “jou” across the top of which similarly hints at a major French newspaper (Le Journal). Moreover, the wood and banner adhered to the velvet in Schanbel’s work alludes to the latter’s collaged surface, bringing Picasso’s papier collé into the modern day.



    Layers of not only texture, paint, and other media are piled onto the canvas, but also layers of an entire visual and linguistic history. As Le Canard enchaîné ruthlessly mocks the political establishment and the manners in which information is relayed to citizens, so Canard De Chaine takes as its subject the pedagogy of art and art history. A skeleton on a banner on the left side of the canvas resembles an anatomy poster in a classroom as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s dedicated representations of the corporeal; the defined, organic white shapes in the center may be subtly biomorphic; the circle and gesturally applied gesso line of the upper half remind one of abstraction, particularly Barnett Newman’s early work. These myriad of references to painting’s past and present almost seem to parody an art history textbook, but by positioning them on velvet—a nod to the black velvet paintings that are sold in rural America, the epitome of “low culture”—Schnabel takes aim at the establishment, challenging us to consider who has the power to define art.

    • Provenance

      PaceWildenstein, Los Angeles
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, PaceWildenstein, Julian Schnabel: Selected Paintings, March 7–April 19, 1997


Canard De Chaine

oil, gesso, wood and screw on velvet with banner
126 x 96 in. (320 x 243.8 cm)
Executed in 1989.

Full Cataloguing

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $126,000

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261


20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021