Julie Curtiss - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “I’m often galvanised by art that fascinates and petrifies you at the same time.” —  Julie Curtiss


    Focusing on the relationship between nature and culture, Julie Curtiss addresses a myriad of social issues in her work, with a particular interest in the images of American bourgeois glamour and femininity of the 1950s and 1960s. Incorporating the theories of Jungian psychoanalysis, Curtiss explores notions of female sexuality, identity and exploitation. Commenting that she 'enjoy(s) the complementarity of humour and darkness, the uncanny and the mundane, grotesque shapes and vivid colours'i, Curtiss offers a surreal and often unsettling world mined from the very depths of her psyche.


    Born in France to a Vietnamese father and a French mother, Curtiss moved to Tokyo following her graduation from Paris’s prestigious Ecole des Beaux‐Arts in 2006 and is currently based in Brooklyn. The tensions wrought by this intermingling of various cultures throughout her life drew Curtiss to the idea of the 'other', translated in her work through the uncanny dance between attraction and repulsion. As such, the subjects of Curtiss’ figurative paintings are disquieting, utilising the symbol of hair with a near fetishistic intensity. This motif is incorporated into oil paintings, gouaches and experimental sculptures. Dense locks are twisted into branch‐like configurations, sometimes replacing household objects or food items with its mane‐like texture, so glossy as to appear almost solid and utterly impenetrable.



    Meret Oppenheim, Object, 1936
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art Collection, New York
    © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich


    Despite her more straightforward illustrative style, Curtiss offers no easy access to the narrative contained within her artwork. Her sculptures include sushi rice topped with lips or a straw hat filled with spaghetti, exemplifying André Breton’s belief in the power of Surrealist works to urge the inhibited population to connect with their unconscious. Curtiss’ work also echoes the assemblages and sculptural works of Meret Oppenheim, in which everyday, often domestic, objects were brought into disturbing and humorous juxtaposition. Thus, Curtiss cracks the veneer of civilised society, alluding to the sexual, psychological and emotional drives churning beneath the surface.


    With its distorted proportions, weight and appropriated function, Curtiss’ hair transcends its role of protection and accessory, asserting its position as a visual schema with economic, political, social, and religious effects, defined by normativity and privilege. Historically, literary articulations of hair have focused on its abundance, movement and slight curl, instilled with the design of inspiring the praise and attention of men, while also establishing the social status and birthright of women. Hair has also been associated with the imbalances or distempers of the four humours, with its appearance – be it straight and brittle, or soft and wavy – being a determinant of health and fertility. The deviance of Curtiss’ hair thus appears a remark on traditional ideals and aesthetics, touching on the realm of social critique, addressing issues of virtue, capital, and elite status, as well as physiological health.



    Paul Delvaux, L'Appel de la Nuit (The Call of the Night), 1938
    Collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
    © 2021 Paul Delvaux / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels


    Curtiss’ work has been included in exhibitions at Anton Kern, New York; White Cube Gallery, London; Galerie Sultana, Paris; Regina Re, New York; Field Projects Gallery, New York; Perrotin Gallery, Seoul; Art Basel, Miami; and 106 Green Gallery, New York. Curtiss was the recipient of the Van Lier Fellowship through the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2012 and has participated in the Saltonstall Arts Colony Residency Program, New York, in 2017, and the Contemporary Art Center at Woodside Residency Program, New York, in 2012. Her work is part of the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Bronx Museum, New York; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.



    i Julie Curtiss, as quoted on her artist's website, White Cube Gallery, online

    • Provenance

      Chapter NY, New York
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Chapter NY, Condo New York 2018, 29 June - 27 July 2018

    • Artist Biography

      Julie Curtiss

      Born and raised in Paris, France, Julie Curtiss (b. 1982) now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Curtiss studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts, Paris.

      The artist draws on a history of figurative painting including 18th- and 19th-century French painting, as well as the Chicago Imagists and the ‘pop’ imagery of comic books, manga and illustration. Frequent subject matter focuses on the deconstructed female body and symbols of stereotypical female aesthetics. There are similarities between Curtiss’ work and the painters of the female Surrealist movement of the early 20th century in the use of distorted perspectives, dreamscapes, and humor to reflect upon the female experience.  

      Curtiss’ work is represented in a number of museum collections, among which are Bronx Museum, New York; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; High Museum, Atlanta; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Maki Collection, Japan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Yuz Museum, Shanghai.


      View More Works


Lateral Embrace II

signed, titled and dated ‘“Lateral Embrace” 2018 Julie Curtiss’ on the reverse
acrylic and oil on canvas
76.2 x 76.2 cm. (30 x 30 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for HK$1,764,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021