Michael Craig-Martin - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Michael Craig-Martin, 'Full', Lot 15

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 February

  • Provenance

    Jay Jopling, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2000

  • Exhibited

    London, Fragile House, fig-1, 2000
    Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Michael Craig-Martin: Works 1964 - 2006, 4 October 2006 - 14 January 2007, pp. 216-217 (illustrated, pp. 216-217)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mixing surprising amalgamations of neon colour and seminal art-historical references, Full, 2000, is an exceptional example of Michael Craig-Martin’s witty, versatile and iconographically referential painterly practice. Over an expanse of four metres, nine objects are pictured side by side, evenly distributed across the width of the canvas. The restraint of the drawing – typically defined by sleek black lines – stands in high contrast with the fierce, riotous hues that animate the composition; absorbed by the grandeur of this visual blend, the viewer is left to ponder the nature of each item. After careful observation, one is able to discern, one after the other, the filing cabinet from Edward Hopper’s Office at Night, 1940, the brushes from Jasper Johns' Painted Bronze, 1960, Craig-Martin’s own repeated ladder symbol, as well as his seminal conceptual readymade An Oak Tree, 1973, followed by Marcel Duchamp’s Bottlerack, 1914, Man Ray’s Object to Be Destroyed, 1923, and finally Craig-Martin’s fire-extinguisher, appearing in his 1996 painting Innocence and Experience (Fire Extinguisher). There is also an undeniable architectural element to the composition, first, in its ambitious scale – Craig-Martin’s favourite to work on – and second, in its precise outlines and broader construction. ‘I am fascinated by architecture and also by the possibility of making very large images’, the artist said (Michael Craig-Martin, quoted in ‘Michael Craig-Martin’, Aesthetica Magazine, 2013, online). With Full, Craig-Martin presents the viewer with a monument to the ordinary – an homage to symbolism.

    Housed in the same collection since its acquisition in 2000, Full revels in its immaculate provenance, presented at auction for the first time in 2020 since its creation. Echoing the proximity shared by the collector Robert Tibbles and Craig-Martin, the painting was purchased when the artist and the collector were already close. ‘I met him through Karsten Schubert, who sold me the Medicine Cabinet [Damien Hirst’s Bodies] in 1989. He was around in the galleries, and we became friendly’, Tibbles remembers. In 1993, Tibbles commissioned his first piece from Craig-Martin – Narrative Painting, 1993-94, which pictures a large expanse of pink next to a narrower section of yellow, over which a canvas and a book appear to float. ‘Michael included a book because he always said “If you want to be a really serious Contemporary Art collector, Robert, you cannot have curtains or books.” And then he included the back of a canvas to show I am a collector’ (Robert Tibbles, in conversation with Cheyenne Westphal, 6 December 2019). With the present work, Craig-Martin seems to have merged notions of solemnity and creativity, the thirst of knowledge and the verve to collect, and materialised them into a suite of objects. Art and its index thus fuse into a single subject matter in the composition: that of symbolism. As a result, Full functions as a sourcebook of art history; a collector’s perfect companion as he moves forward towards an increasingly careful examination of objects.

    Despite originating from different historical contexts, the nine symbols in Full are unified by the special, beautified status that was endowed to them by the artists who materialised them in painting or sculpture, decades before Craig-Martin. The bottlerack, the glass of water, the paintbrushes et. al., all transcended their functional value and entered the realm of art history when they were elevated by seminal art-historical protagonists who, in their art, sought to reinstate value in the ordinary. ‘What’s more famous than famous?’, Craig-Martin once asked, ‘…more famous than famous is ordinary, because ordinary is everywhere, ubiquitous, instantly familiar and so familiar that it’s invisible’. In this perspective, he continued, ‘a lightbulb is more famous than Marilyn Monroe’ (Michael Craig-Martin, quoted in Matt Alagiah, ‘Michael Craig-Martin on the changing nature of “ordinariness”’, It’s Nice That, 6 February 2019, online). In the present composition, Craig-Martin pays tribute to Hopper, Duchamp, Man Ray; distinguished figures who successfully shed light on the exceptional nature of ordinary objects – and made them visible again.

    A father of the Young British Artists movement, Craig-Martin fostered a new generation of conceptual creators who looked at the world anew, and materialised it accordingly. Full is a masterpiece from his own visual repertoire; it beautifully encapsulates his desire to merge painting, sculpture, architecture, and the striking relevance of symbolism within a single image. It moreover demonstrates the importance of colour and visual brashness in the work of Young British Artists – a feature that contemporaries such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Michael Landy and Gary Hume imparted in their own work.

The Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More



acrylic on canvas
213.8 x 412.7 cm (84 1/8 x 162 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2000.

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £162,500

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 February 2020