Nelson Leirner - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Buenos Aires, Fundación PROA, South America: The Pop Art of Contradictions, 14 July- 16 September 2012, then travelled to Curitiba, Museu Oscar Niemeyer (4 October 2012- 20 January 2013), Bergamo, Galeria D'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea(8 March- 26 May 2013), Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna (21 June- 14 August 2013)

  • Literature

    Nelson Leirner: Uma Viagem, exh. cat., Rio de Janeiro: Centro Cultural Light, 1997, p. 14-15 (illustrated)
    T. Chiarelli, Nelson Leirner: arte e não Arte, São Paulo: Galeria Brito Cimino & Grupo Takano, 2002, pp. 9, 74 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in São Paulo in 1932, Nelson Leirner later lived as a teenager in the United States until the early 1950s, when he returned to Brazil. He went on to study art under Juan Ponç and Samson Flexor at different moments during the course of that decade. His first solo exhibition took place in 1961, and by 1963 he was already invited to participate in the São Paulo Biennial. He would be included in all the subsequent editions until 1969 when he adhered to the international boycott against the military regime’s repressive measures and the censoring of art exhibitions in Brazil. In 1966 he formed the Rex Group with fellow artists Wesley Duke Lee, Geraldo de Barros, José Resende amongst others. Rex Group sought to question the relation between art and its institutions, offering an alternative, artist-run space for experimentation and the dissemination of their ideas and ideals. The following year Leirner participated in the New Brazilian Objectivity exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, which is now acknowledged as a defining moment for Brazilian art in the 1960s.

    The year 1967 can be considered as having been particularly significant within Nelson Leirner’s long career. It saw the dramatic closing of the Rex Gallery, with a “happening” where guests were invited to help themselves to the work on display as a means of critique of art as commodity. The Rex artists failed however to predict the voracity with which the invitation would be carried out and the event entered history as one of the most chaotic art manifestations of the decade.

    That year, Leirner also presented a stuffed pig at the IV Brasilia Modern Art Salon together with a statement protesting against its refusal by the jury. Much to his surprise and annoyance the work was accepted, leading the artist to promptly rewrite the statement protesting against the jury for its inclusion.

    In the same spirit of rebellion, Leirner initiated that year a series of works that questioned notions of authorship and craft within art production. He saw this as a means of proposing an alternative route for art that would relate to mass production and consequently would make art more accessible. The series of works entitled Homage to Fontana where thus presented for sale at their first showing accompanied by a list of items that contributed to their overall cost: stretcher, canvas, zippers, frame, carpenter’s labor, assorted items and artist’s percentage. According to the art historian Tadeu Chiarelli, the notion of the death of the author is inextricably connected to the title of the series which saw the introduction of low cost materials as a strategy against a particular perception of art. For Chiarelli, Leirner thus transformed the “romantic gesture that ripped” the canvas, the trade mark so to say of artist Lucio Fontana, into the mechanical, anonymous and endlessly repeatable process of opening and closing that the zipper provided.

    The very fact that the works were presented as editions, that is to say, that they were not unique objects, was at the time considered a radical gesture which left many art pundits somewhat bemused. Leirner received an award for these works at the IX Tokyo Biennial and today they are considered as having significantly contributed to the radical shift that took place within the avant-garde practice in Brazil. Nelson Leirner thus entered art historical narratives as the master of appropriation and cultural references, a role that he still maintains in his current work with a generous dose of iron and wit for good measure.



Homenagem a Fontana I

cotton fabric, steel and aluminum
71 1/4 x 49 3/4 in. (181 x 126.5 cm.)
This work is from an unnumbered edition of 7. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and it is registered in the artist's archives, numbered 0123 HC.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $359,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm