Luc Tuymans - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    1 in 11, Sotheby's, London, February 12, 2015, lot 13 (donated by the artist)
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Tokyo, Wako Works of Art, Luc Tuymans: The Spill, March 23 – May 2, 2013, p. 28 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “On my first encounter with your paintings, at the Renaissance Society in 1995, the thing that I left there feeling was that they were perfect pictures. Like Gerhard Richter’s best work, it declares to the viewer, I am a picture.” ¬¬– Kerry James Marshall to Luc Tuymans, 2005

    Quiet and subversively restrained, Luc Tuymans’ Model, 2012, is an exceptional painting that arose out of the artist’s ongoing dialogue with his close friend and acclaimed artist Kerry James Marshall. Tuymans’ coolly elliptical approach to the translation of mediated images here results in a dream-like vignette that belies the loaded motif it depicts, namely a now demolished public housing project once visible from Marshall’s Chicago studio. While this work is based on pre-existing imagery like all of Tuymans’ paintings, it takes a unique position for its basis on a specifically conceived architectural model kept in his studio. Employing a characteristically muted, white-washed color palette of delicate blues and violet, Tuymans daubs, brushes and feathers the paint with fleet brushstrokes across the canvas to create a diffused, almost impressionist rendering of this motif. Characteristic of Tuymans’ conceptual approach to addressing political issues with a remarkable subtlety and ambiguity, Model presents the viewer with a third-degree abstraction from reality where crisp architectural geometries have been rendered hazy and slightly out-of-focus, like a faded memory or an overexposed photograph.

    Tuymans is often lauded as one of the greatest figurative painters of his generation, an accolade he arguably shares with Marshall with whom he shares a close friendship and ongoing creative dialogue from which Model was borne. Exemplary of Tuymans’ concern with themes of history, power and memory, this work alludes to the disenfranchised communities specific to the social fabric of Chicago’s South Side where Marshall has maintained a studio since 1987. Painted in 2012, just a year after Tuymans’ seminal mid-career survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, it depicts the Robert Taylor Homes, a notorious housing project in the neighborhood of Bronzeville that also inspired Marshall’s breakthrough Garden Project series from 1994-1995. Once heralded as the “Black Metropolis”, this neighborhood featured the largest concentration of public housing high-rises in the county. Yet governmental support soon became virtually non-existent and housing projects such as Robert Taylor Homes came into sharp focus for problems related to narcotics, crime, violence and the perpetuation of poverty.

    It is through a process and aesthetic of detachment that Tuymans confronts history and memory head-on, imaging the undercurrents of power and violence with a subversive subtlety to explore the visual residue of trauma and the collective desire to forget. The model holds a special position within this context, as Tuymans crucially took as his source a Polaroid he took of the architectural maquette in his studio. By building in an additional layer of mediation in this way, Tuymans brilliantly furthers his investigation of the process of translation between the real and the copy – in this case referring to something that no longer exists as the housing project was controversially demolished in 2007 as part of a wider public housing reform – some 70 years after they had been built as models of hope for social improvement.

    Intent on probing the gap between the image and what it represents, Tuymans throughout his career has taken the simulated truths as conveyed through photography, television and video stills as the subject of his figurative paintings. Model is the result of Tuymans’ complex artistic process, which begins with an often month-long contemplative phase where he tests and reconsiders images. This lengthy period of gestation is followed by decisive bursts of intense physical activity in which the finalized image is reconstructed on the canvas within a single day. Driven by the goal to “make people reconsider what they’re seeing”, Tuymans thereby draws the viewer’s attention to the pictorial surface to remind them, as Model’s title implies, that what is depicted only an approximated visual model of reality (Luc Tuymans quoted in Dorothy Spears, “Putting the Wrongs of History in Paint”, The New York Times, February 3, 2010, online). In this, Tuymans’ canvas functions like Plato’s Cave where all we see are projected shadows of an unknowable reality.

Property of a Private European Collector



signed and dated "L Tuymans 012" on the reverse
oil on canvas
66 1/2 x 49 3/4 in. (168.9 x 126.4 cm.)
Painted in 2012.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018