Julian Schnabel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in November 1988

  • Catalogue Essay

    What the surface of a painting can be is an obsession of mine. I like dealing with physical problems and rudimentary concerns about trying to stick things to a surface. - Julian Schnabel

    Painted in 1977-1978, No. 17 (Red Cross Painting for N. Fisher, 1978) is a monumental early example of celebrated American artist Julian Schnabel’s innovative style. Painted just after Schnabel's graduation from the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the present work was created at a time when conceptual minimalism dominated the New York art scene. Schnabel, along with contemporaries like Eric Fischl and Jean-Michel Basquiat, was responsible for upending this period of austerity in favor of a gestural return to figurative painting.

    In many ways, the present work forecasts the boldly ornamented and richly colored treatment of the surface that would come to characterize Schnabel’s mature pictorial idiom. The face of No. 17 is thickly encrusted in marigold yellow paint and covered in jagged fissures that prefigure the broken crockery and dense paint of his 1980s plate paintings. Like the plate paintings, the cracked facture in No. 17 physically denotes textural brush strokes, while metaphorically suggesting emotional symbols of ruin; indeed, Schnabel would create his first plate painting a mere few months later. Thematically, too, No. 17 declares a strong return to painting in the shape of long, thin forms reaching upwards like knives over the canvas. Veering between figuration and abstraction, these indecipherable forms are half image, half sign in the manner of Paul Klee’s cryptographic markings. Schnabel describes these liminal pictorial elements as “a catalogue of variables” he has used since the 1970s and continues to incorporate in his most recent works (Julian Schnabel, quoted in Louise Neri, “Julian Schnabel in Conversation with Louise Neri”, Julian Schnabel, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, 2008, p. 1). Deconstructing the tenets of formalism with skill and agility, No. 17 is a stellar example of Schnabel’s early painting practice.

Property from a Distinguished Midwestern Collection


No. 17 (Red Cross Painting for N. Fisher, 1978)

signed, titled, indistinctly inscribed and dated "Julian Schnabel 1977-78 Red Cross Painting for Norman Fischer No. 16 in Germany" on the reverse
oil on canvas
95 7/8 x 52 1/2 in. (243.5 x 133.4 cm.)
Painted in 1977-1978.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue