Katherine Bernhardt - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Painting is a practice that I follow; and it chooses its own way. It is impossible to predict where it will go, just as it is impossible to predict what kinds of pop culture will emerge in the future or which colors will naturally pool together on a flat canvas on my studio floor. The only constants in a true painting practice are evolution and change.”
    — Katherine Bernhardt

    One of her many monumental takes on the Pink Panther, the present lot C’est Très Chic by Katherine Bernhardt carries the familiar Pop Art practice of reshaping mass-produced images, but with a vibrant command of fluorescent paint that makes it more stylish than ever. Cryptic academic commentaries or broad statements are not the artist’s intentions: instead, the character, so often blandly cut and pasted onto merchandise and TV, is rendered in brilliant shades of his iconic colour on a massive scale. Big, sweeping acrylic brushstrokes leave drops and trails across the canvas, seemingly bright and shiny as if they had just been freshly painted, offset by drier, smokier fields of spray paint. Flanked by repeated French phrases and with one hand on the hip, the panther strives to appear cool and smooth - but the work has the heedless joy and creativity of a child’s first painting.



    Katherine Bernhardt, Laundry Day, 2017. 
     Sold by Phillips at HK Evening Sale for HK$ 2,142,000, 22 June 2022
    Artwork: © Katherine Bernhardt


    Influences Everywhere


    Though Berhnardt cites several major artists as influences, such as the Colour Field painter Helen Frankenthaler, she looks to symbols of pop culture as sources of inspiration, conjuring up equally dazzling paintings. Her 2023 exhibitions in Hong Kong and New York, for example, respectively took on Pokémon cards and Bart Simpson for inspiration, transfiguring their overfamiliar forms into similarly dazzling visions. Travels in Morocco have inspired Bernhardt's love for African fabrics and their geometric patterns and bright contrasts clearly bleed into her painting as the minutiae of daily life - showers, cigarettes, and even cleaning products- recur throughout, taking on a similar visual rhythm.


    A Memorable Stay


    Her paintings of the Pink Panther were inspired by a stay at a hotel in Honolulu, known as the Pink Palace. In the Pink Palace, pink suffused the towels, the sheets, the décor, and even the food, while the TV sets showed her son’s beloved The Pink Panther Show. Originally created for the opening titles of a Europe-set, high-society heist comedy (echoed in the work’s suave title), Bernhardt found the svelte character a much welcomed contrast to her other previous muses such as the rotund but endearing Garfield and the chic models, thus promptly devoting a whole series of paintings to the Pink Panther.



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

    A Mercurial Technique


    To give her work its signature brightness and fluidity, Bernhardt uses a strikingly unique method. Re-examining Abstract Expressionists’ practice of pouring paint from above and allowing the canvas absorb it, she paints on the floor ‘so [she] can use lots of liquid and so that it doesn’t drip, it pools instead’ i. This creates flowing, spontaneous patterns throughout the composition, giving it a liveliness still palpable in the end result. With her mass-media archetypes, minute lines and spots streaked around in irreplicable patterns, it is only Bernhardt who can dazzle us with her spectacularly playful subjects.





    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in St Louis, 1975, Katherine Bernhardt has gained strong praise from critics for her vivid, freeform paintings of pop culture figures and equally dazzling, Morocco-influenced carpet installations.
    • Having received a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and MFA from New York’s School of Visual Arts, she broke out with a solo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2017, with other shows in New York, London, Brussels, and Panama City since.
    • Jointly represented by David Zwirner, which most recently exhibited her work in Hong Kong last year (Dummy doll jealous eyes ditto pikachu beefy mimikyu rough play Galarian rapid dash libra horn HP 270 Vmax full art, May – August 2023), and CANADA Gallery.
    • Her art features in notable public and museum collections, including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, High Museum of Art, Atalanta, and Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation, Amman, Jordan.



    Katherine Bernhardt, quoted in an interview with Maria Vogel for Art of Choice website, June 4 2018, online

    • Provenance

      Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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



C'est Très Chic

signed, titled and dated '2016 Katherine Bernhardt C'est Très Chic' on the reverse
acrylic and spray paint on canvas
198.4 x 182.9 cm. (78 1/8 x 72 in.)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

HK$600,000 - 900,000 

Sold for HK$825,500

Contact Specialist

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

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024