Mike Kelley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Saturday, May 7, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan
    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Milan, Galleria Emi Fontana, Mike Kelley: Memory Ware, Wood Grain, Carpet, 2003, no. 37, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mike Kelley’s practice has always managed to find the latent power embedded in the seemingly mundane or kitsch components of daily life. The Memory Ware Flats are a poignant and concise example of Kelley’s ability to blend high with low, irreverent with academic, to achieve an artistic synthesis that is both visually engaging and deeply thought provoking. Memory Ware #37 was first exhibited at the artist’s solo exhibition Gallery Emi Fontana in 2001. Within an unassuming natural wood frame, Kelley has interspersed a variety of cast-off materials – old buttons, earrings, seashells, beads, and other assorted knickknacks – Memory Ware #37 is a visual phantasmagoria made tangible. Naming the series after a form of Canadian folk art, which involves the decoration of keepsake ashtrays, boxes, and other household items, Kelley appropriates insignificant, banal and discarded items and elevates them to the status of a "high" art medium. Riffing on the all-over painting style of the Abstract Expressionists, Kelley subverts their hyper-masculine personae by utilizing these traditionally domestic items. He employs these apparently discarded household items both to examine the psychological connections people have with their possessions and the pathos of the embedded histories contained therein and for their purely pictorial potential – avoiding simple, saccharine nostalgia by subverting the emotional value of memory that people invest in inanimate objects and kitsch keepsakes. In light of the artist’s own tragic and conflicted history, Memory Ware #37 is imbued with some of those self-same qualities that Kelley disavowed. A stunning abstraction of household detritus intentionally framed as a discrete art object, Memory Ware #37 stands as a testament to Kelley’s artistic genius and achievements – a new canonical work for Kelley’s successors to refute.

Property of an Important European Collector

Ο ◆1

Memory Ware #37

mixed media on wood panel
32 1/8 x 22 1/8 x 3 3/4 in. (81.5 x 56.2 x 9.5 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "M. Kelley 2003 #37" on the backing board.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $641,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 May 2016