Nicolas Party - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Fantastical, magnetic and lusciously vibrant, Swiss artist Nicolas Party’s captivating paintings are bricolages of art history. Engaging in dialogues with disparate epochs of art history, Party adapts pictorial elements from artists such as Felix Vallotton, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Rosabla Carriera, Giorgio Morandi, Milton Avery, and Georgia O’keeffe, culminating into his own idiom and formal vocabulary.

     

    “It’s a nice idea that your painting could somehow have a dialogue with another one. Vallotton and I can’t have a conversation. But if you hang a Vallotton painting in the same room as one of my paintings, the two works will speak to each other. I don’t know if they will get along, that’s up to them.”
    — Nicolas Party

     

    Devoting himself entirely to traditional painting genres, Party’s biomorphic still lifes, uncanny landscapes and androgynous portraits showcase his painterly precision and astounding technique. Reducing these classical subjects to their essence, Party creates works that are a refreshing spin on traditional genres with a distinct visual language that focus on the interrogation of the medium, colour, form, and composition.

     

     

    Two Portraits

     

    “Pastel scatters with the lightest breath, like dust from a butterfly’s wing.”
    — Théophile Gautier, Histoire de l’art dramatique en France, 1859

     

    In true celebration of pastel’s unique tactile visual quality, Party utilises intensely saturated, scintillating bright shades of citrus hues in Two Portraits, amplifying the physical presence of the two figures. The intense opacity of the colours contrasts the impermanence and fragility of soft pastel – a material that is so delicate and ephemeral, it could be blown away like coloured dust in the wind.

     

     

    Detail fo the present lot

     

    Devoid of extraneous details, Party’s protagonists are androgynous, anonymous and timeless, varying only slightly in physiognomy. Embodying a unique sense of duality and ambivalence, these characters evoke tension between familiarity and strangeness. In Two Portraits, both protagonists wear crimson lipstick and lilac eyeshadow in classic Party fashion; the left figure gazes directly at the viewer, clad in a shade of rich orange, in contrast to the right figure in pale yellow, who glances to the side. Everything from their almost pencilled in, thinly lined eyebrows to their sharp cupid's bow and luminously highlighted cheeks heightens the ambiguity of their gender.

     

    “It felt very natural to depict those faces with make-up, making them look androgynous, I didn’t know it at the time, but pastels have a distinctive relationship to make-up.”
    — Nicolas Party

    Perfect in Pastel

     

    Central to Party’s practice is his distinct focus on the pastel medium. One of the few artists currently using it almost exclusively as their primary creative material, Party first became enamoured with pastel in 2013, after being struck by Picasso’s 1921 work, Tête de femme at an exhibition: ‘My first reaction was that I wanted to do the same portrait, so I bought the postcard and the next day I went to the art store and bought a pastel set and some paper. I started to draw portraits using pastel for the first time, regularly looking at the Picasso Portrait for inspiration.’ i

     

     

    Left: Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme, 1921
    Collection of Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
    © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Detail of the present lot

    A clear homage to Picasso’s original piece, the right figure from the present work shares unmistakable characteristics with the former example –  from each character’s facial structure, to their almond shaped eyes, sharp contours, to even the faint highlight on the tip of their chins. Fascinated by Picasso’s enigmatic depiction of the human face, Party plays with the innate powder-like quality of the pastel medium. Working directly with his hands, the creative process is highly sensual and immediate. Party labours arduously over the painterly surface with his fingertips to reveal an immaculately rendered canvas that glows with a velveteen sheen that is unique to the material.

     

    “I fell in love with the fact that pastel is super fragile. There’s a poetic edge to an artwork that can so easily become nothing more than ‘dust in the air’.”
    — Nicolas Party

    Other Dynamic Duos

     

    A highly ubiquitous motif throughout art history, many artists have presented their own interpretation on the double portrait. This particular compositional approach conveys disparate relationships between the protagonists, hinting towards shared intimacies or detachment, reinforced by the touch of a gently resting hand on another, or cold, estranged expressions. 

  • Magritte | Party

     

    “Art is basically embracing that feeling and energy of needing to raise questions but only capturing that, and trying to create objects that can't be resolved. Magritte is a master at that: he creates this very clear enigma, but there are no answers. That to me is a successful artwork.”
    — Nicolas Party

     

    Evoking the formal vernacular of René Magritte, Nicolas Party’s portraits encapsulates the same enigmatic, uncanny quality as seen in the works by the Belgian Surrealist master. Playing with optical illusions, Magritte’s The Secret Double depicts a male bust in a puzzling double visual. Floating atop a hazy sea horizon, Magritte’s protagonist is similarly androgynous as the figures in Party’s portraits, sharing the same reddened lips and stark contrast shading that imbues his works with a graphical quality.

     

    Engendering a seductive tension and disquieting ambience, The Secret Double draws the viewer in with an unexpected juxtaposition of expectation of where the figure’s face should lie, unsettling as he creates a sense of confusion through the use of non sequiturs.

     

     

    René Magritte, The Secret Double (Le Double secret), 1927
    © 2022 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    Sharing a similar passion in exploring the concept of representation in his portraits, Nicolas Party’s Two Portraits emits an equally Surrealist intrigue, echoing Magritte’s means of visual expression. Juxtaposing their radiantly smooth skin, the eyes of both protagonists in Two Portraits are uncannily flat, as if painted on the surface of a mask, allowing the work to oscillate between an optical illusion and eerie deception. However, rather than focusing on the presentation of a particular subject or concept, Party is more concerned with the relationship between the materiality of pastel and paper, grounding his practice in the possibility of the medium itself.

     

      

    Collector’s Digest

     

    Born in 1980 in Lausanne, Switzerland, Nicolas Party lives and works in New York. Beginning first as a graffiti artist, Party is famed for his major mural commissions for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, which influences his approach in the installation and presentation of his works, resulting in dazzlingly immersive and site specific exhibitions, including the artist’s latest solo show, L’heure mauve (Mauve Twilight), which opened 12 February at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and will last until 16 October, 2022. The exhibition brings together watercolours, pastels and sculptures by Party, including around 20 previously unexhibited works.

     

    The artist’s latest mural protect, Draw the Curtain (2021), was unveiled at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., covering the entire facade of the museum's renowned cylindrical building. Other highly immersive and critically acclaimed solo museum exhibitions include  Boilly, Le Consortium Museum, Dijon (2021-2022); Rovine, MASI Lugano (2021);  Pastel, FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2019); Arches, M WOODS, Beijing (2018-2019); and Magritte Parti, Magritte Museum, Brussels (2018), amongst others.

     

    Party’s work is represented in over 30 public collections worldwide, including K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Long Museum, Shanghai; Fondazione Fiera Milano, Milan; M WOODS, Beijing; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; and the Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

     

     

    i Nicolas Party, quoted in ‘Stéphane Aquin in conversation with Nicolas Party’, Michele Robecchi, ed., Nicholas Party, London, 2021, p.40

     

    • Provenance

      Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
      Private Collection, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from a Distinguished European Collection

16

Two Portraits

signed and dated 'Nicolas Party 2016' on the reverse
pastel on linen
140 x 140.3 cm. (55 1/8 x 55 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 
€731,000-974,000
$769,000-1,030,000

Sold for HK$6,542,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022