Luc Tuymans - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Luc Tuymans, 'Sunset', Lot 13

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002

  • Exhibited

    Kassel, Binding-Brauerei, Documenta11_Platform 5: Exhibition, June 8 - September 15, 2002, p. 530 (illustrated, p. 531)
    Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Dark, February 18 - April 17, 2006, p. 114 (illustrated, p. 113)
    Budapest, Mücsarnoc Kunsthalle, Luc Tuymans: Retrospective, December 15, 2007 - February 10, 2008, p. 98 (illustrated, p. 70)
    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Luc Tuymans: Wenn der Frühling kommt, March 2 - May 12, 2008, p. 49 (installation view illustrated)
    Warsaw, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Idź I patrz/Come and See, May 31 - August 18, 2008

  • Literature

    Documenta11_Platform 5: Ausstellung | Exhibition, Ausstellungsorte | Exhibition Venues, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, p. 158 (installation view illustrated)
    Éric Suchère, “Luc Tuymans: La peinture comme concept / More Than a Medium”, Art Presse, no. 281, July - August, 2002, p. 27 (illustrated)
    Ulrich Loock et. al., Luc Tuymans, London, 2003, p. 217 (illustrated, p. 216)
    Thomas Wagner, Freihändig: Wahrnehmungen der Kunst, Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 60-61 (Kassel, Binding-Brauerei installation view illustrated)
    Thomas Schönberger, “Leerstellen der Monstrosität”, Spex, March 2008, p. 127 (illustrated)
    Morgan Falconer, “Luc Tuymans: Agent Provocateur", Art World, April 1, 2008, p. 43 (illustrated)
    Frank Demaegd, ed., Luc Tuymans: Zeno X Gallery, 25 Years of Collaboration, exh. cat., Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, 2016, p. 267 (illustrated)
    Eva Meyer-Hermann, ed., Luc Tuymans, Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Volume 2: 1995-2006, New York, 2018, no. LTP 316, p. 284 (illustrated, p. 285; Kassel, Binding-Brauerei installation view illustrated, p. 439)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My wife and I were in New York during 9/11… So I was trying to think ‘What could be the counterpoint to this? Something idyllic?’” – Luc Tuymans

    A manifestation of art’s struggle to address unfathomably horrific violence, Sunset, 2002 is illustrative of Luc Tuyman’s faculty for encapsulating the evocative power of quietude. A haunting painting from his emotive series that was first exhibited at Documenta11, Sunset was the artist’s reply to the September 11th attacks in New York, and is perhaps reminiscent of the appearance of the grief-stricken downtown sky, suffused with smoke and debris, on one of the darkest days of the 21st century. Sunset is from a body of work which saw Tuymans utilize traditional art historical genres such as still life, portraiture, and plein air painting to obliquely present the devastating aftermath of the atrocious event. Despite its seemingly banal subject matter, Sunset embodies Tuymans’s distinctive approach, in which either dimly-lit or bleached-out forms are portrayed as slightly out-of-focus, or blurred, glimpses of a somberly enigmatic reality. Reflective of Tuymans’s propensity to never respond to sociopolitical upheaval directly but instead through careful, astute reflection, Sunset is emblematic of the artist’s adroit ability to relate violence, memory, and representation that is currently being celebrated at his major monographic exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice.

    The year of its execution, Sunset shocked viewers at Documenta11, where Tuymans was widely expected to exhibit overtly political work in the wake of the disaster of September 11th, which he witnessed during a visit to the United States. “My wife and I were there during 9/11. We saw the planes going into the buildings from our hotel room,” Tuymans recalled in an interview with Ben Eastham. However, “I thought it was impossible to do something with the event at that time. It’s not the way that painting works” (Luc Tuymans, quoted in Ben Eastham, “A Necessary Realism: Interview with Luc Tuymans”, Apollo, August 8, 2015, online). Instead, the painter turned to the cerebral power of banality, displaying Sunset alongside works of similar placidity, including a portrait, a picture of a mother and child, and the renowned Still Life, 2002, Pinault Collection. Shifting from his more explicit, macabre depictions of Holocaust and Belgian colonialism, for which he had used conspicuously disturbing source imagery, this series betrayed a more oblique grappling with one of the most shamefully violent passages of history. According to the artist, “The attacks [of 9/11] were also an assault on aesthetics. That gave me the idea of reacting with a sort of anti-picture, with an idyll, albeit an inherently twisted one” (Luc Tuymans, quoted in exhibition guide to Luc Tuymans, Tate Modern, London, 2004, p. 8).

    Though it was foreseeable that viewers would anticipate patently political paintings from an artist whose previous motifs have included such violent sociopolitical catastrophes as concentration camps, gas chambers, and prisoners of war, Tuymans has always understood that art’s capacity to inspire or provoke depends less on the subject itself than how it is treated with paint. This is indeed the case with Sunset, as its pervasive, muted gray palette is more evocative of a distant memory one is struggling to recall than the immediately arresting, vibrant colors that are typically associated with sunsets. Similarly to his Sundown, 2009, currently on view at the Palazzo Grassi, the poignant effect of the work is a far cry from the optical vibrancy that typified Impressionist painting, such as Claude Monet’s Setting Sun over the the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect, 1880, Musée des beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris, due to its somber, ashen tonality. As the art critic Hans Rudolf Reust perceived, “A sense of tragedy can creep into Tuymans’s painting, as if the deed has not yet taken place, nor is fatefully imminent, but is happening again, in a contradictorily anachronistic process, through painting” (Hans Rudolf Reust, Luc Tuymans, London, 2011, p. 204). This insight elucidates the aura of quiescent threat exuded from Sunset, a depiction of a mournful day coming to a close, heavy with the inexplicably oppressive burden of human suffering.

    A departure from his portrayals of horrific chapters in human history, Sunset was Tuymans’s unexpectedly affecting response to the cataclysm of the 9/11 attacks and was developed by counterintuitively looking inward—instead of outward, as political art usually does—in contemplation of the historical genre of plein air painting. In the time since their unveiling, Sunset and Tuymans’s other works from Documenta11 have proven to be quiet achievements which allowed for a scarce opportunity of meditation during an internationally feverish time which, in retrospect, haste and pathos were perhaps enabled to dominate. “Painting is an anachronism. It will always be that way,” Tuymans has explained. “But it has never been naïve” (Luc Tuymans, quoted in Ben Eastham, “A Necessary Realism: Interview with Luc Tuymans”, Apollo, August 8, 2015, online).

A Discerning Vision Property from an Important Private Collection



oil on canvas
62 1/2 x 52 1/4 in. (158.8 x 132.7 cm.)
Painted in 2002.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $800,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019