Katherine Bernhardt - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “I never feel like I have enough paintings and need to make more and more. It’s an obsession to need to make an image. I also like humour in art and try to paint the most mundane thing I can find, like toilet paper or cigarettes, something that you would never think to paint, but that could be funny.”
    — Katherine Bernhardt


    Electrifying, obsessive, and unabashedly fun, American artist Katherine Bernhardt’s characteristically energetic paintings are celebrations of colour and form. A fusion of pop iconography, graffiti technique and the formal vernacular of Colour Field artists, Bernhardt’s oeuvre is a personal catalogue of the quotidian of everyday life. Repeatedly painting images of common objects with strong outlines and vibrant hues in an almost frantic frenzy, Bernhardt forms her own visual language that is akin to calligraphy or graffiti tags.


    Gathering diverse and unrelated imagery such as watermelons, cigarettes, pizza slices and sharks into cohesive compositions, the artist jumbles with an endless roster of motifs from daily life whilst culling characters from classic American pop culture such as E.T., Garfield, Darth Vader, and most notably, the Pink Panther — as seen in the current work.


    Installation view of the current work at Katherine Bernhardt: GREEN
    CANADA, New York, 5 January 5 - 11 February 2018
    © Canada, New York


    A Maximalist Aesthetic


    Featuring her most iconic motif of the pink panther, Laundry Day dazzles with its large scale, bright shades of fuchsia, and brushstrokes full of verve and tenacity. Evoking Hawaiian sunsets and tropical drinks, Bernhardt’s first paintings of her signature panthers were inspired by her son, Khalifa’s love for the cartoon, and their stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. The resort was overflowing in pink decor; from pink towels, pink sheets, pink carpeting, pink beach chairs, pink stationery, to the Pink Panther on TV:


    “Everything was pink. I thought, Oh my God, that’s awesome. I should start making all-pink paintings.”
    — Katherine Bernhardt


    Pulling inspiration from a myriad of sources, Bernhardt’s spontaneous and visually arresting compositions are assembled into collage-like compositions that are representative of a collective cultural memory. Over-saturated and overstuffed, Bernhardt’s paintings reflect the cluttered and layered space of her own house, depicting objects she discovered at local thrift shops, from her parent’s home, or during her travels:


    “My work is directly related to the house where I grew up and the maximalist aesthetic that is within it. Space filled up everywhere with no space to breathe, my work kind of copies that. Filling every inch of the canvas with symbols and things.”
    — Katherine Bernhardt



    Fields of Colour


    “I love everything about painting: I love colour and I love mixing it, I always have. I love putting a brush to a canvas and making a line. I love Morris Louis and his stain painting, and Mary Heilmann and her colours. [...] It’s an impulse to make things and for me that impulse is in painting.” 
    — Katherine Bernhardt


    Inheriting the visual lexicon of Colour Field artists such as Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler and Mary Heilmann, Bernhardt’s begins her paintings by outlining with spray paint on upright canvases, later placing them onto the floor where she paints with thinned down acrylics, allowing the colours to overflow and interact with each other in chance encounters.


    Left: Morris Louis, Untitled, 1959-1960
    Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    © Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Mary Heilmann, Primalon Ballroom, 2002
     © Mary Heilmann. Courtesy of the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, and Hauser & Wirth


    Blending seamlessly together, the washes of intense colour in works such as Laundry Day demonstrates the magnetic quality of using a wet-on-wet technique. In Morris Louis’ Untitled, the fellow American artist also utilises board bands of running colour that gravitate and cascade towards the centre of the canvas. Though sharing a similar technique, Bernhardt’s style is distinctive in its more saturated vibrancy. Additionally, Bernhardt looks to Mary Heilmann’s diverse selection of colours for inspiration. Similar to Bernhardt’s approach, Heilmann also demonstrates a clear autobiographical dimension in her oeuvre, evident from the pieces related to her memories, places, and friendship.



    Detail of of the present work


    Collector’s Digest



    Born 1975 in St. Louis, American artist Katherine Bernhardt reviewed her BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York. First gaining momentum in 2017, Bernhardt held her first institutional solo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, also creating a 60 foot long mural, XXL Superflat Pancake, for the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum in the same year. Bernhardt’s notable recent exhibitions include: Ahí donde no has llegao’ sabes que te llevaré, Diablo Rosso, Panama City (2021); Katherine Bernhardt‌, José Luis Vargas: VOODOO MAYO KETCHUP, Carl Freeman Gallery, Margate (2020), and Garfield on Scotch Tape, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (2019).


    In 2021, David Zwirner announced joint representation of the artist along with CANADA Gallery. The artist’s first solo exhibition with Zwirner will be forthcoming in 2022 at their London gallery.


    Work by the Bernhardt is found in prominent public and museum collections, including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee; Portland Museum of Art, Maine; Rubell Museum, Miami; and San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas. Bernhardt lives and works in St. Louis.



    • Provenance

      Canada, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Canada, Katherine Bernhardt: GREEN, 5 January - 11 February 2018

    • Artist Biography

      Katherine Bernhardt

      American • 1975

      Katherine Bernhardt, whether in her paintings or make-shift Moroccan rugs, is rapt by neons and geometries. The artist, who works in New York, takes an almost hasty-flick of a brushstroke that lands as a jagged architectural form — figures cut in space and in buzzing colors that leave a mental trace.

      Seemingly each month, multiple galleries, museums or art fairs across the world exhibit Bernhardt's large-scale fantasies and rug-centric installations, as seen in 2017 at Art Basel and with a solo retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth. "I think the best painters don't intellectualize their own art—they just make stuff," she says; but with sharks circling trash in the water in today's climate, as is depicted in Sharks, Toilet Paper and Plantains, it's not hard to see Bernhardt's deeper meanings. 

      View More Works

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection


Laundry Day

signed, titled and dated '"Laundry Day" 2017 Katherine Bernhardt Katherine Bernhardt 2017' on the reverse
acrylic and spray paint on canvas
306 x 245 cm. (120 1/2 x 96 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$2,142,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022