Nicolas Party - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “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

    Ostensibly fixed dichotomies – such as figuration and abstraction, pictorial flatness and volumetric forms, tradition and technology – are subverted in Nicolas Party’s captivating colored pastel works that reinvigorate long-established painterly themes for the contemporary era. Upending these conventional visual notions of representation, space, and time, Landscape, 2015, epitomizes the Brussels-based artist’s re-imagination of the classical genre of landscape painting that has launched him to international acclaim in recent years. Since 2016, he has had solo exhibitions at distinguished institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. In the past decade, Party has garnered a reputation as one of the most visionary and eminent post-internet artists, as cemented by a 2018 exhibition at the Magritte Museum, Brussels which placed twenty of his works in dialogue with those of the canonized Surrealists. The first major work by Party with this subject matter to come to auction, Landscape epitomizes the artist’s unique visual lexicon on a colossal scale.

    A classically trained painter, Party has grounded nearly his entire oeuvre in rendering established aesthetic motifs of still life, portraiture, and landscape. A prime exemplar of one of the artist’s most iconic subject matters, Landscape presents the viewer with a vivid, dreamlike vista encompassing flat, graphic trees and shrubs that are defined as rich blocks of blues, scarlets, and neons beyond an amethyst-colored clearing in the foreground. The work positions Party in the art-historical genealogy of landscape painters, in which he is the heir to renowned masters such as John Constable and Claude Lorrain as well as to the great challengers of the conventional genre, Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. Though working over a century later than his Impressionist ancestors, Party similarly utilizes the orthodox painterly subject of landscape as a device to cleverly explore contemporaneous conceptual themes; while Monet and Cézanne experimented with the modernist flatness of the picture plane and forms abstracted from nature, Landscape studies the artificial, computerized essence of the post-internet world. Party’s pastel also alludes to the work of the American modern painter Milton Avery, whose idiosyncratic depiction of nature as blocks of vivid color in paintings such as Tree Fantasy, 1950, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, conspicuously influenced the former’s portrayal of forestland. Landscape demonstrates Party’s reverence for the masters of landscape while exploring the essential qualities of these long-established pictorial subjects.

    At first glance, the viewer registers the present work’s composition as a landscape scene, but upon closer inspection, the forms appear to metamorphose into a medley of vibrant geometric shapes; the leafless, distinctly outlined shrubs in the foreground collapse into two-dimensional circles and ovals of scarlet, sand, and chartreuse while the forestry in the background transmutes into biomorphic, abstract forms. Landscape’s dual subject matter of the countryside and ambiguous, nonrepresentational shapes is also propelled by its bold, energetic palette that spans the color spectrum. The shades of Landscape are virtually psychedelic; their prismatic harmony embodies Party’s declaration that “a color by itself doesn’t mean anything. It’s only the relationship between them that makes something happen in a painting” (Nicolas Party, quoted in “Two Naked Women: Interview with Nicolas Party”, ATPdiary, March, 24, 2015, online).

    The context of Landscape is enigmatic: the absence of signifiers of time, such as a sun, moon, or stars elicits a feeling of eternity in Party’s semi-abstracted universe. It is not only the hour of day that is obscured in the work, however; while the work refers to the traditional history of landscapes, it simultaneously evokes ghostly, hollow renderings of 3D models, which can be attributed to the artist’s 10 years spent working as a 3D animator and his interest in computer art. As Party illuminated in an interview with Loney Abrams in 2016, “I was doing very simple abstract forms with simple geometric shapes… We’re so used to seeing computer-generated images now that it has a big impact on how we see all images. I think this describes the look my figures have. I see them almost as like a thin layer of something and I don’t know what is behind them” (Nicolas Party, quoted in Loney Abrams, “Post-Internet Phenomenon Nicolas Party on the Importance of Painting Cats in the Digital Age”, Artspace, October, 19, 2016, online).

    The shallow depth of field and fastidious arrangement of these inert, weightless entities is perhaps most formally reminiscent of the meticulous, unadorned placement of kitchenware by Party’s greatest influence: Giorgio Morandi. The economy of form in Landscape also evokes the essence of his forebearer’s work; indeed, Party once acknowledged this parallelism by explaining that “[Morandi’s] remarkable attitude at working extremely hard on the most simple subject to get the most essential meaning of things is a great lesson” (Nicolas Party, quoted in “Two Naked Women: Interview with Nicolas Party”, ATPdiary, March, 24, 2015, online).

    Party ironically creates these futuristic, vacant forms in pastel, a technique that was prevalent in the late 17th century through the beginning of the 18th century. While computer animation is a modern, technological endeavor, painting with pastel is an intimate, physical practice generally applied by finger; according to Party, it allows him to “establish a real relationship with [his] work” (Nicolas Party, quoted in “Interview: Nicolas Party,” Conceptual Fine Arts, September 16, 2015, online). In this way, Landscape mystifyingly pays simultaneous homage to art-making modes of the past and to the technology of the future.

    Landscape is multifaceted, recalling René Magritte’s love of mystery and the flatness of the picture plane in works by Henri Rousseau or Giorgio de Chirico, while concurrently experimenting with contemporary phenomena such as computerized abstraction and psychedelia. Landscape encapsulates Party’s imaginative approach to referencing the masters of the past while keeping an eye open to the future. Perhaps this sentiment has best been elucidated by the curator of Party’s acclaimed 2016-2017 exhibition at the Hammer Museum, Ali Subotnick: “Nicolas collapses the past with the present and future… He never gets stuck in a formulaic pattern” (Ali Subotnick, “Party Time”, Vogue, June 2018, p. 114). Oscillating between convention and the cutting-edge, Landscape attests to the bold, innovative thinking that has catapulted Party to global recognition.

  • 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 of an Important Private Collector, Europe



signed and dated "Nicolas Party 2015" on the reverse
pastel on canvas
78 3/4 x 47 1/4 in. (200 x 120 cm.)
Executed in 2015.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $608,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue