Nicole Eisenman - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, July 9, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Koenig, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Nicole Eisenman
    Hunnenschlacht (The Battle of the Huns) (detail), 1950
    American visual contemporary artist Nicole Eisenman is widely celebrated as one of the leading figurative painters of her generation, renowned for her expressive, subversive works that provide a witty comment on contemporary culture. Her influence was confirmed in 2015 when she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant”, recognized for ‘restor[ing] to the representation of the human form a cultural significance that had waned during the ascendancy of abstraction in the 20th century’ (‘Nicole Eisenman, Painter, Class of 2015’, MacArthur Foundation, 28 September 2015, online). Masterfully demonstrating her acclaimed figurative language, Hunnenschlacht presents the viewer with a captivating yet curious scene: a crowd of brawling figures, neatly dressed in white, tightly packed into eight panels.

    Wilhelm von Kaulbach
    Hunnenschlacht, c.1850
    Collection of Neue Pinakothek, Munich
    Taking inspiration from one of the most distinguished works by German painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach, whose painting of the same title from 1850 depicts the savage battle of the Catalaunian Fields (451 AD), Eisenman's animated canvas is rich in narrative allusion. According to legend, the clash between the Romans, Germanic Goths and the Asian and Eastern European Hun armies was so ferocious that despite resulting in a draw, the souls of the deceased warriors continued their fight in the sky as they rose to the afterlife. Illustrating the artist’s playful critique on socio-political situations, Hunnenschlacht too, presents a cast of international characters struggling and grappling with each other in a fight where, ultimately, no one is the winner. Energetic whilst retaining a sense of balance, the sophistically rendered composition draws as equally from the tropes of Western art history as it does from the visual conventions of contemporary media, advertising, and comic-strips, perfectly exemplifying Eisenman's unique approach to image-making. As praised by the esteemed art critic and curator, Massimiliano Gioni, Eisenman 'doesn't passively genuflect in front of art history, [she] resurrects it and camouflages it into our present' (Massimiliano Gioni quoted in Diane Solway, ‘Nicole Eisenman Has Both Style and Substance’, W Magazine, 21 April 2016, online).

    After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, Eisenman moved to New York where she now lives and works. Her works can also be found in a number of notable public collections, including the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Art (both New York), and the Kunsthalle Zürich, among others. Eisenman is represented by Hauser & Wirth worldwide, as well as by Anton Kern in New York.

Property from an Important European Collection


Hunnenschlacht (The Battle of the Huns)

pencil and watercolour on paper
44.5 x 171.4 cm. (17 1/2 x 67 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2001.

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$812,500

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 9 July 2020