Nicolas Party - New Now New York Tuesday, September 24, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    The Modern Institute, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Fast‐rising art stars, Nicolas Party and Tomoo Gokita are taking grand strides to re‐invigorate the millennia‐old tradition of portraiture. From the ancient Egyptians to the Roman Caesars, the Renaissance elite to the political and royal families of Europe, portraiture has traditionally been an historical record of one’s wealth, power and beauty. This treasured art form has persisted through numerous stylistic iterations by the most important artists of each generation. Following in these radical footsteps, Party and Gokita are leaders among the most contemporary practitioners. Sharing a background in graphic design, both artists find themselves with increasingly celebrated oeuvres, most fittingly classified as Post‐Conceptual. Their work focuses almost exclusively on the aesthetic importance of representing their subjects without providing a narrative to signify social significance.

    Once the central purpose of traditional portraiture, the theme of specific personal identity is starkly absent from contemporary examples Portrait and Mexican Duchamp. Notably inspired by the idealism of Classical Greek sculpture, Nicolas Party’s androgynous subject in Portrait dons powder blue eyeshadow and bright red lipstick. Highlighted by these superbly unexpected accents, the figure’s bulbous features evoke little more than a hollow shell, intentionally lacking individualistic characteristics and contextual social status. Rather, the figure serves as an ambiguous idol of physical appearance. Likewise, eschewing the conventional priorities of glorifying the sitters’ facial features, Gokita’s Mexican Duchamp purposely obfuscates its subjects’ appearances. Inspired by Playboy magazines and working in his signature greyscale palette, Gokita celebrates the same de‐contextualizing motifs evident in Party’s work. With deliberate smudges across his subjects’ guise, Gokita alternately masks their identities and obstructs the spectator’s gaze. Elusively illustrating a particularly mature couple outfitted in elegant evening attire, the artist begs the viewer to bear further witness to their implied extravagant livelihood, to no avail.

    The uniformly monochrome backdrop in both Portrait and Mexican Duchamp strips the sitters of any discernable narrative or social position, conversely creating a flattened and ambiguous surrealist fantasy. Once featuring beloved belongings of the sitter(s) and expressly denoting a specific personal surrounding, portraiture sought to elevate the elaborate routine of one’s life and style. Cleverly neglecting these themes, these two artists abandon symbolic connotation to instead develop innovative narratives of mystery and intrigue.

    With no underlying symbolic representation, the focus of these works lies primarily in the materiality of the artists’ hand. While Gokita portrays his erotic imagery with an angular line and Party favors playful subjects rendered with fluid contours, both artists execute with an energizing looseness that contradicts the stagnant principles of traditional portrait‐painting techniques. Despite their impulsive execution, each work exhibits sharp clean strokes paired with layers of luxurious media that emphasize the seductive otherworldliness of its subjects. Customarily painted in oil, portraits typically manifested a highly‐refined permanence that is disregarded in these contemporary renditions executed in gouache and pastel. Composed uniquely in the celebrated styles of these cutting‐edge artists, each of these works exhibits portraiture’s latest avant‐garde venture that perpetuates the ever‐lasting appeal of this art form.

  • 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



signed and dated "Nicolas Party 2014" on the reverse
pastel on paper
25 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (64.8 x 49.5 cm.)
Executed in 2014.

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $175,000

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Sam Mansour
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New York
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New Now

New York Auction 24 September 2019