Loie Hollowell - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, June 8, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “Colour and light are always the driving factors in my work and my body is the conceptual length that brings the viewer in and keeps me engaged." 
    — Loie Hollowell

    Loie Hollowell is a New York-based artist known for her radiant abstract geometries that pulsate with light, colour and form, announcing themselves firstly as exquisite formal exercises, before later revealing their shared preoccupation with powerful expressions of human sensuality. Grand in scale and composed of vibrant chromatic hues, First Contact is a striking piece from her body of work, rendered in oil, acrylic, sawdust, and high-density foam that protrudes into the viewer’s space, juxtaposing the flat linen surface with a curious sense of three-dimensionality.


    Showcasing the artist’s adroit understanding of physicality, the materiality of the work forces viewers to move around it to determine the full scope of its shape, introducing a playful, performative aspect that speaks to her masterful manipulation of surface and space. Traversing the boundaries between painting and sculpture, the canvas is simultaneously intimate and personal whilst also universal in its vulnerability, distinctly showcasing Hollowell’s exploration into sexuality, fertility, and the physicality of the human body – themes that have come to define her acclaimed oeuvre. 

    Loie Hollowell
    Courtesy PACE Gallery


    Hollowell’s Rise to Global Prominence  

    Born in Minnesota in 1983, Hollowell’s upbringing provided a fertile environment for her creativity to develop, largely encouraged by her painter-professor father and political-cartoonist mother. In reminiscing on her childhood days, the artist has described, ‘growing up here, we were left alone. We didn’t have TV, cell phones or computers. My dad doesn’t read. So we never read. We would just make art, all day. We all made mud pies and sculptures and helped my dad build stuff. It was a really strong work ethic put toward creativity and expression of the self’i.


    Following her graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012, the young artist moved to New York and began showing her work in small galleries across the city. Following a chance encounter with American painter Ridley Howard, however, who was an artist in resident at the Virginia Commonweal University while she was still a student, Hollowell was invited to show at Howard’s 106 Green project space in Brooklyn. Her 2015 exhibition proved to be highly successful, catching the attention of esteemed artist-dealer Joel Mesler, whom too, utilises bright colour with a graphically simplistic aesthetic in his own acclaimed body of work. Purchasing some works, not only did Mesler become one of Hollowell’s early collectors, he also offered her representation, resulting in her featuring at NADA Miami Beach in December of that same year. 

    Lot 6 – Joel Mesler, Untitled (Tony Chang Goes to Hollywood), 2019
    Estimate HK$400,000 – 600,000 / US$51,300 – 76,900


    “As soon as I went to the studio, I knew she was one of them—it’s like, once every two years, you find that artist…The historical references are there, they’re sexy, they’re colourful, they have great wall power.” 
    — Joel Mesler

    Elizabeth Murray, Red Corner, 1999

    A couple of years later, Hollowell’s bold, graphic style also caught the attention of Marc Glimcher, the president of mega-gallery PACE who found her work to be ‘simpatico to that of Pace artists like Agnes Martin’, capturing ‘the aesthetic of the Southwest, and Elizabeth Murray, who, like Hollowell, plays riotously with colour and form’ ii. Praising her as a ‘truly rare talent’ iii, it did not take long for the art world to share in that excitement, as confirmed by her debut show with PACE in September 2017 which immediately sold out. 

    Dominant / Recessive

    First Contact was executed in 2018, a pivotal year in Hollowell’s practice marked by two successful solo exhibitions at PACE that propelled her to international recognition. The first of which was Switchback at PACE Hong Kong, which ran from 27 Mach – 31 May. Dominant / Recessive followed shortly after, presented at PACE London between 28 August – 20 September 2018. It was here, at her fist solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, that First Contact was unveiled, installed alongside eleven other canvases and twenty-two works on paper that abstract the most intimate and sexually explicit elements of the human anatomy into shapes that reappear frequently throughout art history. 

    The present work installed at London, PACE, Loie Hollowell: Dominant / Recessive, 28 August – 20 September 2018

    In a 2018 interview with Emily Spicer for Studio International, Hollowell discussed the relevance of the art historical symbols that can be found in her Dominant / Recessive works:


    ES: You’ve made several pendulum paintings. What did they signify before you changed the pendulums into sperm?

    LH: With the pendulums, I wanted to create movement that described time and I wanted to create more of a play with colour. The title of the exhibition, Dominant/Recessive, refers to human genes, but this show is also about dominant and recessive colour, so there are a lot of complementaries pushing against each other. And I don’t know if it worked out, but, theoretically, the red and the blue of Dead End are on the same tonal spectrum, so in theory, those two tones would be flat in a black and white image. They would register as the same grey, but you would need an analogue camera to show that.

    ES: How much is colour theory a part of your work?

    LH: Colour and light are always the driving factors in my work and my body is the conceptual length that brings the viewer in and keeps me engaged. I could make this painting over and over again just playing with colour relationships. But I think I would get bored eventually, and probably the viewer would get bored, too. I also use a set of symbolic languages, like the ogee and the mandorla. The ogee is a gothic architectural form that sits above the arch of a door. I don’t know what function it has beyond decoration because it isn’t structurally significant, but it’s a visual thing. It just becomes a more elaborate form of an arch, and to me it looks like a breast.

    Read the rest of the interview here.


    Ogee shaped door of St. Patricks Cathedral, New York

    We see this ogee shape in First Contact emerging from the bottom of the canvas, clearly defined in luminous white with distinct edges. Rounded in form with a pointed tip, Hollowell uses the ogee shape as a reference to her own body, introducing notions of sex and femininity in an intimately personal way. In doing so, she steps into the historical lineage of painters Georgia O’Keeffe and Judy Chicago, who were considered the foremothers of the feminist art movement, celebrated for challenging the male-dominated art world in their powerful celebrations of womanhood, which like Hollowell, they explored through fascinating use of colour and geometry. Although, whilst Hollowell and O’Keefe share the same concern for a certain organic form, Hollowell’s oeuvre differs from her predecessor’s meticulous sharpness in rendering as Hollowell’s vibrant colours gradate as if emitting their own inner, radiant glow. 



    Georgia O’Keefe, Series I, No. 8, 1919
    Collection of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich

    Notably, the present work shares similarities to Chicago’s painting Through the Flower (1973), an iconic piece which forms part of the permanent collection of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and covers the artist’s 1975 autobiography. Considered a landmark work of Chicago’s early feminist explorations, Through the Flower presents the viewer a depiction of the female sexual organ placed at the centre of the canvas, surrounded by lines that emanate from it like the glowing rays of a beaming sun.   



    Judy Chicago, Through the Flower, 1973
    Collection of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York


    In First Contact, Hollowell too, composes her piece through pattern and undulating repetition, with circular orbs framing the perimeter of the ogee like an upside-down horseshoe. Whilst their form is indisputably reminiscent of the recognisable shape of the male reproductive cell, alluding to the work’s title in its biological role to meet the egg, the red circles that gradually disappear into the background further convey the various stages of a fading moon, thus contributing to the theme of fertility by bringing to mind ideas surrounding the menstruation cycle. Indeed, when the various elements of First Contact are considered as a whole, the composition can be deemed as a powerful visual exploration of both the thought and process of conception. This resonates all the more so when it is revealed that the artist was trying for a baby at the time of the work’s inception, with her first child being born in December 2018. As Hollowell explains of her Dominant / Recessive works: 

    “This new body of work considers the act of trying to conceive as well as conception itself. By layering the concerns of painting on top of hand sculpted bodily surfaces, these shapely forms exist in a space between the illusoriness of painting and dimensionality of sculpture. The more time I spend with these paintings, the more I realise how real, physical and complex this liminal space can become. To put the thoughts I have, about trying to conceive and becoming pregnant into my painting / sculpting language is an invitation to embrace the physicality and otherworldliness of that primal sexual act.” 
    — Loie Hollowell


    Interestingly, First Contact along with Hollowell’s other works are all autobiographical in the sense that they are proportioned in direct correlation with the size of the body part depicted, with First Contact thus being anatomically scaled to the artist’s breast. This clever play with proportion absorbs the full scale of the human figure into the framework of the canvas, mapping the body in a manner that art historian Elizabeth Buhe aptly describes, ‘we telescope from micro- to macroscopic, from internal to external experience, and from the self to the new life one’s own body can harbor’iv. Enraptured in light and shadow, Hollowell achieves complex and shifting visual effects in First Contact through the unexpected textural quality she builds up directly onto the canvas surface, confounding expectations of painting whilst also dynamically engaging with meditations of fertility and fecundity that relate to both her own body and the universal natural world.



    Detail of present work


    “Beauty for me is not just visual, it is also experiential. I want the viewer to come away not necessarily knowing what I was trying to tell them about, say, my birth experience, but absorbing an impression of brightness or richness or radiance that has something to do with their relationship to their own body.” 
    — Loie Hollowell


    Collector’s Digest 


    Having garnered significant global acclaim for her oeuvre which takes the female nude as a subject and shift its form towards pared down abstraction, Hollowell has been celebrated across numerous solo exhibitions in venues around the world. Notably, this includes at Feuer/Mesler, New York in 2016; PACE Paolo Alto in 2017; PACE London in 2018; PACE Hong Kong in 2018; PACE New York in 2019; and PACE online in 2020. Most recently, a solo exhibition of her work was held by the prestigious Long Museum in Shanghai, titled Loie Hollowell: Recalibrate, which ran from 24 April – 11 July 2021. 




    i Carolyne Zinko, ‘Bohemian upbringing informs Loie Hollowell’s art’, The San Fransisco Chronicle, 7 September 2017, online 

    ii Nate Freeman, ‘How Newly Minted Art Market Star Loie Hollowell’s Prices Rose More Than 1,200 Percent in Just Three Years’, Artnet News, 15 September 2019, online
    iii Marc Glimcher, quoted in Nate Freeman, ‘How Newly Minted Art Market Star Loie Hollowell’s Prices Rose More Than 1,200 Percent in Just Three Years’, Artnet News, 15 September 2019, online
    iv Elizabeth Buhe, quoted in Loie Hollowell: Recalibrate Press Release, Long Museum, Shanghai, April 2021, online


    • Provenance

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

    • Exhibited

      London, PACE, Loie Hollowell: Dominant / Recessive, 28 August - 20 September 2018, p. 46 (illustrated pp. 47-48)

    • Literature

      Holly Black, 'Loie Hollowell: Fluorescent Light & Full Bellies', Elephant, vol. 37, Winter 2018-2019, online (illustrated)


First Contact

signed, titled and dated 'Loie Hollowell Loie Hollowell 2018 "First Contact" "First Contact"' on the reverse
oil, acrylic, sawdust and high-density foam on linen mounted on panel
122.2 x 91.4 cm. (48 1/8 x 36 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for HK$10,898,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

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

Hong Kong Auction 8 June 2021