Nicolas Party - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “I think the element of timelessness is really fascinating with painting because there's so much tradition attached to it.” 
    — Nicolas Party  


    Nicolas Party’s Still Life is anything but still. Alive with rhythm and movement, vibrantly saturated fruit twist and sway under a brilliant pervading light that catches onto their contours, casting warm shadows over their rounded curves. Executed in 2017, the technicoloured canvas is a particularly captivating piece from Party’s oeuvre, seducing viewers in with a magnetic quality that is so abundantly rich you can all but taste his fantastical take on reality.


    The Identifiable and The Illusional 


    “I want to grab the audience directly and ‘lock’ them in the work as long as possible. When the viewer is inside the painting, my hope is that its complexity can be revealed. You stay inside it because you feel that there is still something there that you don’t see.” 
    — Nicolas Party


    Party was born in 1980 in Lausanne, a Swiss city situated on the banks of Lake Geneva overlooking the imposing Alps. This upbringing in such an idyllic environment clearly figures in Party’s acute fascination with the natural world as whilst the gemstone shapes in Still Life are recognisable as pears and gourds, in a layered formation their sloping poses also conjure a landscape of rolling hills foregrounding pointed mountain peaks. With a flair for the uncanny, Party pushes this effect into overdrive through anthropomorphising their organic forms like the dancing flowers of early Disney, intensifying the sense of mystery by ‘see[ing] all [his] motifs as independent characters… approach[ing] them by applying a personality to them.’i




    The Dance of the Reed Flutes, from Walt Disney’s Fantasia, 1940


    Working in the medium of pastel, Party intimately applies the soft chalk directly to the canvas with his fingertips using techniques popularised in the late 17th Century through the beginning of the 18th Century. In employing a material that requires you to work with great precision, the artist observes: ‘oils allow you to endlessly retouch. With pastels it’s kind of the exact opposite. You can layer and layer, but you can’t start over. The nature of the medium is much more direct. Nothing dries or is wet – it stays exactly how it is’. iiJuxtaposing this homage to art-making modes of the past, however, is the fact that Party also spent 10 years working as a 3D animator, and thus the graphic quality to his smoothly rendered subjects is perhaps also informed by his interest in digital art. This individual combination of skills and knowledge allows the artist to amplify the physical presence of his motifs as he presents their forms in unique and revelatory ways.


    A Dialogue with Art History


    Although Party’s work is unbeholden to time or place, it echoes many of the artists who came before him. Under the genre of still life, a dialogue certainly exists between the assemblage of crops in the present work and the compositional strategies of painters such as Paul Cezanne, Euan Uglow and René Magritte. At the same time, having cited early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico’s frescoes at the San Marco in Florence as a source of inspiration, one can also detect similarities between both artist’s treatment of light, shadow and hue, such as in the rippling robes in The Sermon on the Mount (1437) and the undulating gourds centring the present work. 

  • Party’s colour palette further connects his canvas to Expressionism and the Fauvists, with the primary-coloured oeuvre of Franz Marc particularly coming to mind. And much as a more contemporary comparison can be made to the curvaceous fruits by Fernando Botero, Party’s preference for pastels as a painter aligns to the belief of Impressionist master Edgar Degas who too, favoured the medium for its spontaneity. But despite the fact that this substantial interweaving of art historical influences should amount to somewhat of a ‘Frankensteinian plurality’, ‘instead, these appropriative compositions cohere into something seamlessly Party’.iii

  • Whilst the composition showcases distinct references to the history of painting, Party reinvigorates traditional artistic subjects with his signature aesthetic that slips between the nostalgic and futuristic and is immediately recognisable. Building on this are his motifs that too, are universal in their visual language, such as the pear that symbolises immortality and prosperity in ancient Chinese culture, grace and nobility in Korea, abundance in Greek and Roman mythology, and Christ’s love in Renaissance religious paintings. Bathed in a warm, inviting luminosity that immerses the viewer, there is a timelessness to Still Life that encourages a closer look at the evolution of representation, perfectly exemplifying Party’s idiosyncratic vision. 


    “I don’t have much interest in what could be labelled as ‘reality’. I’m more interested in the signs, symbols and codes we’ve created for reality.” 
    — Nicolas Party  

    Collector’s Digest


    Party is considered as one of the most successful and critically acclaimed artists working today. He has been honoured with numerous solo exhibitions in the past decade in key international venues, including that of Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles (2020); The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2019); The Modern Institute, Glasgow (2019, 2018, 2016, 2013); M WOODS, Beijing (2018); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2017); amongst many others.


    Switzerland’s MASI Lugano is currently presenting Party’s first extensive retrospective. Titled Nicolas Party – Rovine , the major exhibition opened on 27 June 2021, and will run until 9 January 2022. In Dijon, France, the Consortium Museum is also hosting a solo show of Party’s work, Nicolas Party. Boilly, which commenced on 7 July 2021 and will close on 9 January 2022. Additionally, a solo exhibition titled Nicolas Party | Stage Fright opened at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover on 12 September 2021 and will run until 9 January 2022.


    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.




    Nicolas Party: In the Studio, June 2019

    Video Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth 


    i Nicolas Party, quoted in Olivier Zahm, ‘Nicolas Party’, Purple Magazine, 5 October 2020, online

    ii (the artist cited in Ted Loos, “Artist Nicolas Party Revives the Language of Pastel”, Cultured Mag, 17 March 2019

    iii Annie Godfrey Larmon, ‘Nicolas Party’, Artforum, 2 December 2017, online

    • Provenance

      Kaufmann Repetto, Milan
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Nicolas Party

      Nicolas Party (b. 1980) is a Swiss visual artist living and working in New York City and Brussels.
      He received his BFA from the Lausanne School of Art in 2004 and his MFA from the Glasgow
      School of Art, in Glasgow, Scotland in 2009. Party’s works on paper and canvas are most often done
      in colorful soft pastel, the most common subject matter being fantastical still life and portraits.


      Recent solo exhibitions include Karma, New York (2021–22, 2017); Le Consortium,
      Dijon, France (2021); Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp, Cully, Switzerland (2021); MASI
      Lugano, Switzerland (2021); Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles (2020); Xavier Hufkens,
      Brussels (2019); Modern Institute, Glasgow (2019); M Woods Museum, Beijing
      (2018); Magritte Museum, Brussels (2018); Kaufmann Repetto, Milan (2018);
      Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); and Dallas Museum of Art (2016). Party’s
      work is represented in the collections of the David Roberts Art Foundation, London;
      Migros Museum, Zurich; Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; and the Sifang Art
      Museum, Nanjing, China.

      View More Works

Property from a European Collection


Still Life

signed and dated 'Nicolas Party 2017' on the reverse
soft pastel on linen
150 x 130 cm. (59 x 51 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$6,200,000 - 9,400,000 

Sold for HK$17,190,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021