Katharina Grosse - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips
  • 'Am I a painter? Am I a sculptor? I don’t know. I’m talking to the world while painting on it, or with it, or in it.'
    —Katharina Grosse
    Internationally renowned for her monumental and deeply immersive site-specific installations featuring broad interlocking jets of acid-bright colour sprayed directly onto a seemingly limitless array of natural and architectural surfaces, German artist Katharina Grosse continues to challenge our perceptions of space, colour, and embodiment through her radical practice. Possessing an exceptional vitality and confidently executed on an enormous scale, Ohne Titel is energised by the same wide, sweeping arcs of jarring, vividly hued paint carefully balanced against passages of evocative blank space that characterises Grosse’s work across a range of different environments. Strikingly dynamic, the present work pushes way beyond the limits of the canvas, transforming the flat, two-dimensional surface into a series of complex folds and dramatic, pulsing crenulations, contorting our sense of space as pure colour and form collide.


    Katharina Grosse Interview: On the Edge of Something Else, Louisiana Channel, 2021.


    Embodied Colour


    Born in Freiberg, Germany in 1961, Grosse studied at the prestigious Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where she also held a teaching post for some years. During this time, she was able to experiment with the unconventional approaches to painting that would come to define her practice. At once removing the hand of the artist and engaging her body more directly in her work, by 1998 Grosse had abandoned the paintbrush in favour of the industrial spray gun and foam stencil, formalising an approach that she had first developed playfully in childhood:

    'As a child, I would play a game with myself where before I got up, I had to first erase the shadows on the wall. I invented an invisible paintbrush to paint over the shadows of the windowsill or the lamp of whatever was there.'
    —Katharina Grosse
    Extending the physical range of her body dramatically, the spray-gun allowed Grosse to move intuitively through the sprawling, site-specific installations that she first received international recognition for, a tool particularly well suited not only for the size of these works, but of the artist’s desire to break down boundaries between inside and outside in the formation of new worlds. As she described in one early interview: ‘I do not have a vision. I am the vision. […]  The inside and the outside coexist. What appears in the image field is not subordinate to existing reality, it constitutes that reality. I don’t interpret reality; I understand reality as a performative activity that generates itself newly and differently, again and again.’i


    Maintaining a close dialogue to these larger works, Grosse returned to the canvas for her pivotal first solo exhibition with Gagosian Gallery in 2017, the present work belonging to the network of interconnected suites of untitled paintings produced in advance of the show. Since then, Grosse has regularly exhibited her monumental canvases alongside these larger-scale installations, staging complex interactions between the two as she explores the body’s relationship to space and environment, privileging embodied sensation over acts of seeing alone.


    Installation view of Katharina Grosse, Is It You? Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Mitro Hood / Baltimore Museum of Art, Artwork: © DACS 2022
    Installation view of Katharina Grosse, Is It You? Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Mitro Hood / Baltimore Museum of Art, Artwork: © DACS 2022


    Legacies of Abstraction


    Highly articulate on the relationship between the body, colour, and feeling, Grosse belongs to an illustrious history of abstract painting produced by women that includes the pioneering spiritual symbolism of Hilma af Klint’s canvases, and the forcefully dynamic interlocking planes of contrasted and complimentary colour used to such powerful effect by Sonia Delaunay-Turk. Like Grosse, Delaunay-Turk was interested in the immediacy of colour, and of the ways it which it engages the body actively in producing new ways of seeing and feeling. Building on the laws of simultaneous contrasts developed by the 19th century chemist Michel Eugéne, Delaunay-Turk and her husband Robert Delaunay explored the ways in which prismatic contrasts of primary and secondary colours produced different optical effects within the eye itself, prefiguring Grosse’s own desire to create a painterly language ‘that has bodily contact, that addresses the entire bodily intelligence and can resonate in every fibre of our being.’ii


    Robert Delaunay, Circular Forms, Sun, Moon, 1912, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Image: akg-images / WHA / World History Archive
    Robert Delaunay, Circular Forms, Sun, Moon, 1912, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Image: akg-images / WHA / World History Archive


    Experienced sensorily rather than analytically in this manner, colour can be registered within our bodies as both disruptive and disorientating, a force that Grosse confidently exploits in the present work’s structural complexity as passages of darker red and green tones are forcefully counterpointed by vibrant streaks of cadmium red, vivid turquoise, and lemon-yellow. Creating a synchronicity that draws it close to the rhythms, repetitions, and juxtapositions of musical form, the present work is a striking example of Grosse’s celebration of painting’s non-linear possibilities, moving us instead around, within, and beyond its surface.


    In its gestural qualities, complex layering, and radical extension of an immersive, all-over approach, Grosse’s practice is frequently referred to as a contemporary renegotiation of the principles developed by mid-century Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Janet Sobel. Wildly expansive and spatially complex, Grosse’s prismatic vision has been hugely informative to the painterly languages developed across the large scale-works of emerging artists such as Lauren Quinn and Sarah Sze, pushing a language of abstraction into the 21st century. 


    Collector’s Digest


    • Known for her major, site-specific installations, Grosse has previously produced in-situ works for the South London Gallery in 2017, Fort Tilden and Rockaway Beach in 2016, and The Hamburger Bahnhof in 2016.


    • In addition to site-specific installation APOLLO APOLLO for the Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia where it will remain open alongside the 59th International Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Grosse has recently unveiled a second project for the Fondation Luis Vuitton in their Paris space as part of the exhibition La Couleur en fugue which opened in May.


    • Examples of Grosse’s work are housed in important institutional collections including the Musée d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, The Kunsthaus in Zurich, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, amongst others. 

    i Katharina Grosse, quoted in Ati Maier, Bomb Magazine, 1 April, 2011, online
    ii Katharina Grosse,  quoted in Anna Mcnay, ‘My Eyes are My Most Important Tools’, Studio International, 12 December 2020, online

    • Provenance

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

    • Literature

      Louise Neri, Okwui Enwezor, Dan Cameron, Katharina Grosse and Isabelle Graw, Katharina Grosse, New York, 2018, p. 94 (illustrated, p. 95)


Ohne Titel

inscribed and dated '2016 2016/1109 290x193' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
290 x 193 cm (114 1/8 x 75 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£120,000 - 180,000 ‡♠

Sold for £176,400

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022