Paul Pfeiffer - Contemporary Art Part I New York Thursday, May 17, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Project, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Contemporary Series Paul Pfeiffer, December 13, 2001 – February 24, 2002 (another example exhibited); Cambridge, MIT List Visual Arts Center, February 6 – April 6, 2003, and Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Paul Pfeiffer, May 3 – August 31, 2003 (another example exhibited); Baltimore, Contemporary Museum, January 11 - March 11, 2003; Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, April 12 - June 15, 2003, Innocence: The Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection (another example exhibited); Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Paul Pfeiffer, June 12 – October 17, 2004 (another example exhibited); North Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, November 13 – January 30, 2005; Milwaukee Art Museum, June 25 – September 25, 2005; and Tulsa, Philbrook Museum of Art, January 22 – March 26, 2006 (another example exhibited), Cut: Film as Found Object in Contemporary Video

  • Literature

    K. Siegal, “Paul Pfeiffer”, ArtForum, Summer, 2000; H. Cotter, “Paul Pfeiffer”, The New York Times, January 18, 2001, p. E44; L. Yablonsky, “Making Microart That Can Suggest Macrotruths”, The New York Times, December 9, 2001, p. AR39; H. Halle, “Prize Fighter: Paul Pfeiffer’s Latest Work Proves He’s a Contender”, Time Out New York, January 10 – 17, 2002, pp. 60-61; F. Sirmans, “Paul Pfeiffer”,, Spring, 2002; J. Farver and D. Molon, eds., Paul Pfeiffer, Cambridge, 2003, pp. 16-17 (illustrated); D. Murphy, ed., Innocence: The Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection, Lake Worth/Baltimore, 2003, p. 101 (illustrated); S. Basilico, ed., Cut: Film as Found Object in Contemporary Video, Wisconsin, 2004, p. 38, and pp. 102-103 (illustrated); M. B. Nicola and T. Lenoir, New Philosophy for a New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2004, pp. 30-31; Kunstammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, ed., Paul Pfeiffer, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, pp. 54-55 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “It’s gonna be a chilla, and a thrilla, when I get the Gorilla in Manila.” (Muhammad Ali, Manila, 1975)

    Prior to their third and final bout, Muhammad Ali took every opportunity to taunt his archrival Joe Frazier – nicknaming him “the Gorilla”. The fight itself was and still is considered one of the greatest boxing matches ever. Ali and Frazier had fought twice before – Frazier winning and defending the championship title in 1971 and Ali taking a 12-round decision in 1974. The “Thrilla in Manila” was a 14 round violent battle that ultimately left Ali the victor – but not by knockout. However the two fighters would never quite recover from the battle. The echoes of the punches thrown and landed in this battle of pugilistic titans would resonate through the annals of boxing history, influencing generations of young boxers but at the same time transcending the confines of athletics into the realm of the artworld.

    In 2000, video-artist Paul Pfeiffer began a trilogy of digitally-mastered video installations that captured the final rounds in Muhammad Ali’s three most famous boxing matches. This trilogy, known as The Long Count (aptly titled to describe the long, arduous way in which the referee counts to ten to call a knock-out), defines specific elements underscoring Ali’s boxing career, moments that supported the claim that he was the “greatest fighter of all time”. In the present lot, Long Count III (Thrilla in Manila), Pfeiffer takes original footage from Ali’s 1975 fight in the Philippines against Joe Frazier. He has removed the protagonists, including referees and coaches, from the film. What remains are the ghostly spectral outlines of the figures set against the backdrop of cheering crowd. The negation of figures strengthens the emphasis on the ring itself with its bending and flexing alluding to Ali’s famous of the ‘rope-a-dope’ technique. The cameras are flashing and the crowd is alive with cheering and exultation. Pfeiffer has removed the visual reference to the action but has preserved its essence.

    As curator Dominic Molon describes, “The figures become phantasmal presences whose movements can be detected if not completely comprehended. Pfeiffer included the colorful names by which these fights are known—“I shook up the world”, “Rumble in the Jungle” and “The Thrilla in Manila” – in the subtitles of the works to underscore the repositioning of attention from the central “action” of the fight to the peripheral aspects of the ring, the arena, and the crowd. By cloaking the protagonists, Pfeiffer dissipates the dramatic intensity of each fight—from the ascension of Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 1964 to heavyweight champion, to the politically charged nature of the 1974 “Rumble” in Zaire, to the 1975 Philippines “Thrilla” clash with Frazier, which is regarded by many as one of the most brutal yet fascinating fights of all time. The soundtrack, featuring such interstitial elements of interviews with all four fighters as breathing, faltering, and ambient noise, mimics and reinforces the emphasis on the peripheral in the works. Pfeiffer’s transformation of the boxers into pugilistic ghosts doomed to repeat their bout into perpetuity reflects the title’s allusion to a “long count”--- a deliberately slow countdown by the referee to allow a knocked-down boxer the opportunity to get up. In The Long Count, time almost becomes immaterial as specters hover within an endlessly shifting ring.” (D. Molon, Paul Pfeiffer, Cambridge, 2003, p. 17).

    For Pfeiffer, the trilogy represents a culmination of Ali’s rise to athletic fame and his own personal ascension from Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali. As the artist describes, he selected these three fights to make a beginning and end point to Ali’s career, “certainly the Long Count pieces trace the history of the medium through the three fights of Muhammad Ali. These are very important fights at the beginning, middle and toward the end of Ali's career—Clay versus Liston, in Miami in 1964; Ali versus Foreman, in Kinshasa in 1974; and Ali versus Frazier, in Manila in 1975. What drew me to the images of those fights was really that history. These were some of the first sporting events formatted for television. The Rumble in the Jungle, Ali versus Foreman, was one of the very first attempts at a live, global broadcast, and it happens to have originated in Africa.” (Paul Pfeiffer interviewed by J. González, Bomb Magazine online).


Long Count III (Thrilla in Manila)

LCD video monitor, DVD and metal armature.
Video: 2 minutes 58 seconds looped. Overall installed dimensions: 5 1/4 x 6 1/8 x 62 1/4 in. (13.3 x 15.7 x 158.1 cm); Image size 2 x 1 1/2 in. (5.1 x 3.8 cm)
Signed “Paul Pfeiffer” on DVD. This work is from an edition of six plus one artist’s proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

17 May 2007
7pm New York