Nicolas Party - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Time, memory, history, in my eyes are some of the main subjects in art in general, quite often the keys in every art. That is why artists very often have represented themes that are stable over time, or that have been painted for a long, long time, like trees, plants, or flowers.' —Nicolas Party

    Executed in intensely saturated hues of reds, hot oranges, yellows and brilliant white, Houses is a rare example of Nicolas Party’s distinctive architectural landscape. One of only two such works executed in the artist’s signatory soft pastel, the present work was included in the 2015 exhibition Nicolas Party: Boys and Pastel, significant as the first major exhibition focused on the artist to be presented in the United Kingdom, and for the emphasis that it placed on Party’s installation practice. Reconfiguring the rooms of Inverleigh House into vibrant painted environments, Party encouraged viewers to read these works as sculptural environments that interact closely with the space around them. Rendered with exceptional fluidity, Houses clearly speaks to this, Party’s smoothly rendered volumetric forms here presenting a distillation of the dialogue between colour and shape shaping our physical environment.


    Landscape and Architectural Form


    Chillon Château at nightfall with the Dents du Midi in the background. Image: Giles Laurent
    Chillon Château at nightfall with the Dents du Midi in the background. Image: Giles Laurent

    Born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1980, Party eloquently describes the central place that this landscape has had in shaping his practice and his attitude to form. From the timeless, roughly hewn monumentality of the Alps to the smooth surfaces of the Lausanne walls that he and his friends graffitied as teenagers, this formative environment underpins Party’s landscapes and their translation of observable reality into Surreal, totemic forms.

    'While I was doing the graffiti, I was actually still doing a lot of fairly traditional landscape painting. That environment is quite picturesque, but it got complicated with the police for a time […] Doing murals right now, it’s similar in that it’s a very physical environment and there is a time constraint—I was really chasing that sort of performance aspect.' —Nicolas PartyFrom these early graffiti experiments, Party developed a keen sense of compositional economy and the emotional power that pure relationships of colour and shape could harness in the painting’s surface with the right materials. As he explains ‘The super-bright colours, the very clear lines and effective shapes, these are all things you do with graffiti.’i This architectural element would remain central to his interdisciplinary practice, evidenced not only in its depiction here, but in the artist’s extension of these principles to the grottos, murals, and physical environments that he would go on to create.


    Installation view of Nicolas Party, Grotto, Xavier Hufken, Brussels, Courtesy: the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, photo: Allard Bovenberg, Amsterdam Artwork: © Nicolas Party
    Installation view of Nicolas Party, Grotto, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels. Artwork: © Nicolas Party

    Renaissance Man

    'When you look at an artwork from the past, you feel that time becomes much more elastic. Time and history become a ‘zone’ where you can travel' —Nicolas PartyIn its careful balance of symmetry, proportion, and the orderly arrangement of semi-circular arches, columns, and hemispherical domes, Houses draws on an instantly recognisable architectural vernacular established during the Florentine Renaissance. Themselves referring back to the ordered proportions of Classical architecture, these principles radically redefined the 15th century urban environment, and approaches to its artistic representation. Transforming pictorial space, Giotto di Bondone’s frescos most succinctly capture this in the sense of weight and volumetric form that they possess. It is certainly possible to trace the crisp line of Giotto’s stacked houses, and the subtle repetitions of curved arches and flat-fronted volumes here, Party using these architectural elements as a way of exploring ‘the moment where an element that is very recognisable [..] switches into becoming what we would call a shape.’ii

    Giotto di Bondone, The Expulsion of the Devils from Arezzo, 1297-99 (fresco), Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Assisi. Image: akg-images / Erich Lessing
    Giotto di Bondone, The Expulsion of the Devils from Arezzo, 1297-99 (fresco), Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Assisi. Image: akg-images / Erich Lessing

    In these spatial terms, Party speaks particularly about the impact of seeing Fra Angelico’s frescos in the monk’s cells throughout the Florentine Convent of San Marco, the arrangement of simple arches around a central courtyard modest but incredibly powerful, and capable of disrupting the cooler rationality of modernist architecture. Possessing a distinctive spatial power, the arch has become a key element in Party’s practice since the execution of the present work, incorporated into both his pastels and physical environments.iii

    'That, I think, is very beautiful, these symbols of two forces that are joining right in the middle, and you are passing between them. So there's this feeling, and I really do believe that can affect you, along with the colours, basically the forms and shapes in different aspects of space.'
    —Nicolas Party

    Interviewed in 2020, Party addressed Houses directly in its relation to his subsequent three-dimensional installations, explaining ‘I did two pastels a while ago with arches, the only two pastels with houses. I still want to go back to that, but I haven’t yet. The Karma show [in 2017] was the first time that I used arches […] that's very powerful and it works extremely well.’

    The anachronism of Party’s pictorial language in drawing on Renaissance architecture and fresco painting is echoed in his choice of medium, pastel being a technique most popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Rather than the slower process of working with oils, chalk pastel allows the artist to work with a sense of speed and immediacy, building up layers of shading directly with his fingertips. As Party has suggested recently, ‘I always look for a feeling of awkwardness hidden in a world of destruction’, and in the refined and anachronistic quality of its finish, Houses possesses a remarkable affinity to the beguiling strangeness of Georgio de Chrico and René Magritte’s Surrealism, the volumetric presence of his forms and the intensity of chromatic relationships established between them taking on an entirely unique and charged presence.iv


    Georgio de Chirico, Ariadne, 1913, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/Art Resource/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © DACS 2022
    Georgio de Chirico, Ariadne, 1913, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/Art Resource/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © DACS 2022


    Collector’s Digest 


    •    One of the most critically acclaimed artists of his generation, Nicolas Party’s work has been exhibited internationally in major institutional venues including at Le Consortium in Dijon (2021), the MASI Lugano (2021); FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2019); M WOODS, Beijing (2018-2019); and Magritte Museum, Brussels (2018). 


    •    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.

    •    A major exhibition l’heure mauve has just opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Drawing together Party’s landscapes portraits, and still lifes, it also features a site-specific temporary mural executed in pastels. Party has undertaken similar major mural commissions for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2016), the Dallas Museum of Art (2016), and solo exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, (2017) and the FLAG Art Foundation in New York (2019).


    Nicolas Party: In the Studio, for Hauser & Wirth, 2019.


    i Nicolas Party, quoted in Catherine Hong, ‘Nicolas Party’s Audacious Sense of Colour’ 4 Dec 2019, online
    ii Nicolas Party, ‘Nicolas Party: In the Studio’, interview for Hauer & Wirth, 2019, online
    iii Nicolas Party, quoted in Sasha Bogojev, ‘Nicolas Party: A Hug From On Top of You’, Juxtapoz, Fall 2020, online.
    iv Nicolas Party, ‘See Inside Artist Nicolas Party’s New Yok Studio, Where Each of His 2,455  v Pastels  Has Its Own Cubby’, 8 February, 2022, online

    • Provenance

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

    • Exhibited

      Edinburgh, Inverleith House, Boys and Pastel, 2 May - 21 June 2015

    • Literature

      Nicolas Party ed., Nicolas Party Pastel, New York, 2017, n.p. (illustrated)

    • 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 2015' on the reverse
soft pastel on linen
150 x 120 cm (59 x 47 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£1,100,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,474,500

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022