Luc Tuymans - New Now London Thursday, December 12, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Literature

    Eva Meyer-Hermann, ed., Luc Tuymans Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings Volume 1: 1972-1994, New York, 2017, no. LTP 57, pp. 132 - 133 (illustrated, p. 133)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Currently the subject of a highly acclaimed monographic exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Luc Tuymans has become known to the public as a contemporary master of figurative painting, infusing his work with an unknowable, dreamlike quality that moves beyond habitual modes of representation. Cross, 1987, is a striking example of the artist’s deeply atmospheric style. It presents an iconic sign – the eponymous Christian cross – on a subdued background of pearl-grey paint. The image – clean, simple, and rendered with eerily frosty tones – continues Tuymans’ investigation of the subject of religion, whereby he has repeatedly questioned the meaning of text, signs, and the loose connection between image, memory and reality to identify the point where spirituality and collective critique collide. Religion, in Tuymans’ artistic syntax, is indissociable from socio-political context; here, Cross transcends its iconographic premise to reach a wider historical realm, prompting the viewer to ponder the multitude of interpretations that can be carried by a single symbol. As such, the work resonates with his wider body of work which, in the variety of themes it addresses, constantly seeks to depart from the simplistic appearance of an iconographic source.

    Executed just two years after Tuymans had come back to painting from a five-year hiatus, Cross demonstrates the artist’s unique painterly approach at a time when his interest in form was equal to that in subject matter. Focusing intently and seemingly exclusively on the central symbol, Tuymans is here able to ‘make people reconsider what they’re seeing’ (Luc Tuymans, quoted in Dorothy Spears, ‘Putting the Wrongs of History in Paint’, The New York Times, 3 February 2010, online). Yet, transcending the object’s crystal-clear delineation, Cross additionally attests to Tuymans’ capacity in invoking light through an unparalleled mastery of colour and contrast. With its washed-out backdrop, the composition conveys multitude through minimalism, realism through cinematic synthesis. As a result, a powerful luminosity bleeds beyond the canvas’ margins, as if the cross were sheltering a host of light that could outbeam the symbol’s perpendicular structure. Moving beyond its modest appearance, Cross glows with a numinous force – deeply luminescent in form; it is an exceptional example of Tuymans’ oeuvre, which amidst flurries of celebration, was most recently picked to fill the space of the Palazzo Grassi to coincide with the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale.



signed and signed with the artist's initials 'LT_Tuymans Luc' on the reverse
oil on canvas
60.1 x 69.9 cm (23 5/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1987.

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £168,750

Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 12 December 2019