Michaël Borremans - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

  • Exhibited

    San Sebastian, European Biennal of Contemporary Art, Manifesta 5, With All Due Intent, June 11 - September 30, 2004, p. 230 (illustrated)
    Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart; Kunsthalle Budapest, Michaël Borremans: Eating the Beard, February 20 - June 26, 2011, p. 216 (illustrated, pp. 106-107)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “All of Borremans’ work shares a sense of ambiguity and melancholy, with elements of the bizarre creeping into what at first seems like a technically startling, yet straightforward realism. Through imagery harkening back to an undatable past—though there are hints of the 1940’s—Borremans creates an austere and oppressive world where things become more and more disturbing the deeper you look” (João Ribas, “The AI Interview: Michaël Borremans", Art Info, March 14, 2006, online).

    Oscillating between inexorable realism and nebulous dreamscape, The Rendering, 2002, encapsulates Michaël Borremans’ enigmatic environments that border on the real and the uncanny. Rendered with lush brushwork in a subdued palette of grays, beiges and browns, Borremans’ subjects are at once mundane and mysterious, ordinary and ethereal. In The Rendering, Borremans captures a closely cropped vignette of a man hovering over a table, engaged in an indecipherable activity. Bathed in an atmospheric light, the protagonist is seen only from the neck down, lending an eerie anonymity to the scene. While his sleeves are painted with stylistic precision, his hands morph into an indecipherable blur. To his right, Borremans illustrates a ghostly figure in a transparent wash that fades into the depths of the shadows. The theme of the double—or the doppelgänger—as seen in this illusory silhouette, is a device encountered throughout the artist’s oeuvre, further heightening the ambiguity between what is real and what is artificial.

    Evading clear narrative, The Rendering captures an acute emotional tension and subdued suspense, ultimately inviting more questions than it provides answers. The artist explains, “With the paintings, at first you expect a narrative, because the figures are familiar. But then you see that some parts of the paintings don’t match, or don’t make sense. The works don’t come to a conclusion in the way we expect them to. The images are unfinished: they remain open” (Michaël Borremans, quoted in David Coggins, “Michaël Borremans: An Interview", Art in America, February 25, 2009, online). In The Rendering, Borremans’ figures are frozen mid-gesture, their heads missing and bodies blending into the shadowy background. The painting possesses a strange unease that undermines the traditional function of portraiture—faceless and nameless, Borremans’ subjects occupy the liminal zone between presence and absence.

    Having originally studied photography and filmmaking, Borremans takes his subjects from objects in his environment such as magazine photos, film stills or television broadcasts. Removed from their original contexts, his figures are made anonymous, embodying scenes that read like dreams or nightmares. Exemplary of the artist’s seductive and timeless paintings, The Rendering is characterized by a unique dialogue between the Old Masters Borremans reveres and a uniquely contemporary disposition. Reminiscent of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s 18th century still lifes, Johannes Vermeer’s atmospheric interiors, or Francisco de Goya’s affecting portraits, the present work draws heavily on art historical influences. Yet beneath the veil of stylistic perfection, Borremans’ paintings are distinguished by a sense of post-Surrealist unease. Brimming with psychological undertones, The Rendering evades narrative and eludes comprehension, provoking in viewers a palpable disquiet that is quintessential of the artist’s oeuvre.

A Discerning Vision Property from an Important Private Collection

Ο ◆408

The Rendering

signed, titled and dated "MICHAËL M.C.G. BORREMANS -THE RENDERING- O.O.C. 2002"on the reverse
oil on canvas
29 1/8 x 48 7/8 in. (74 x 124.1 cm.)
Painted in 2002.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $437,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019