Nicole Eisenman - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, July 8, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Exhibited

    New York, Koenig & Clinton, Nicole Eisenman: Elizaville, 12 March - 10 April 2004
    Kunsthalle Zürich, Nicole Eisenman, 31 March – 20 May 2007

  • Literature

    Mathieu Victor, ed., Nicole Eisenman: Selected Works: 1994-2004, New York, 2006, p. 101 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Nicole Eisenman is a contemporary American visual artist whose work has become a unique voice for counter-culture and marginalised identities. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, Eisenman moved to Manhattan’s Lower East Side where she became a central figure in the resurgence of figurative painting in America. Her influence was confirmed when she won the MacArthur "Genius Grant" award in 2015 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).

    Nicole Eisenman in her studio, 2015
    © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    Eisenman’s work uses the human figure as a vehicle to engage with contemporary social issues and phenomena, often deploying allegory and satire to comment on themes such as gender and sexuality, family dynamics, and inequalities of wealth and power: ‘I draw from the world around me, what I know…sometimes I paint the world as I want it to be […] I think the external world filters into my work and all the themes are in there because I’m taking everything in: politics and history and my personal life and my feelings’ (Nicole Eisenman, quoted in ‘Painter Nicole Eisenman, 2015 MacArthur Fellow’, MacArthur Foundation, 28 September 2015, online).

    Nicole Eisenman in her studio, 2015
    © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    4:20 is counter-cultural slang for cannabis consumption, a term which reportedly originated from a group of Californian students who designated it the meeting time and code word for their (ultimately unsuccessful) series of searches for an abandoned cannabis crop in a forest in Point Reyes that they had learned about from a treasure map. Eisenman slyly references this origin story in 4:20, in which four squat, sullen teens traipse through the woods, each lost in melancholic thought. Elevating the bucolic scene with lushly painted textures and a bright - almost unnatural - palette of contrasting colours, Eisenman’s visceral style pays tribute to several great painterly traditions including Surrealism, social realism and Italian Renaissance art.

    Domenico Ghirlandaio
    Angel Appearing to Zacharias (detail),
    Collection of the Santa Maria Novella, Florence
    Eisenman’s attention to detail and social meaning in 4:20 is strikingly reminiscent of Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Angel Appearing to Zacharias, a religious scene turned absurd social portrait in which a large number of contemporary political figures and donors in tidily-composed groups of three or four are squeezed into the foreground of a scene where the angel Gabriel tells the old priest Zacharias that he will soon become father to John the Baptist. Eisenman equals Ghirlandaio’s skill as a painter of portraiture and imaginative compositions, representing lesser-regarded social types through bold contrasts of colour and expressionistic character studies that imbue 4:20 with a darker undercurrent of emotional and psychological intensity. Though Eisenman resists typecasting, her tender treatment of her subjects speaks to the long-standing tradition of portraiture whereby ‘each portrait is thus meant to express individual identity, [but also] seeks to bring out whatever the sitter has in common with the rest of humanity’ (Erwin Panofsky, quoted in Shearer West, Portraiture, Oxford, 2004, p. 24).

    The eminent contemporary art critic Roberta Smith has praised Eisenman’s unique genre of painting: ‘Ms. Eisenman’s paintings declare open season on painting, borrowing from past and present, possibly to build a new kind of future. She makes both the history and craft of representation painting seem remarkably underused’ (Roberta Smith, ‘Nicole Eisenman, Fluidly Merging Past, Present and Future’, The New York Times, 2 June 2016, online). Eisenman’s work can be found in a number of public institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art (both New York), and the Kunsthalle Zürich. She is represented by Hauser & Wirth worldwide, as well as by Anton Kern in New York.

Property from an Important European Collection



signed, titled and dated 'Nicole Eisenman "4:20" 2004' on the reverse
oil on canvas
244.1 x 188.8 cm. (96 1/8 x 74 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2004.

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,750,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 8 July 2020