Philippe Parreno - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'I was wondering why it was that objects are often celebrated, but exhibitions of objects are not […] So it seemed like using birthday candles here would be a good way of addressing that question.' —Philippe Parreno Working across a vast range of media encompassing sculpture, drawing, performance, and film internationally recognised French-Algerian artist Philippe Parreno explores our relationship to objects – including the conceptual possibilities of the exhibition as an immersive object rather than a series of individual, passively consumed items. Frequently explained with reference to ‘relational aesthetics’ over the years Parreno has extended his practice across a series of notable shows including the radical transformation of the Palais de Tokyo in 2013, and Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2016, treating ‘each as a studio where I can invent things.’i Central to his artistic project are ideas of the construction of space and of our body’s relation to it, of the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality, and the notion of duration - a philosophical concept related to our experience of time  and consciousness that his celebrated series of candle works speaks to on several levels.


    While the candle is an object that diminishes in size over time as the wick burns down and the wax melts away, the birthday candle takes on an extra dimension as a privileged object in its ability to mark the passage of time from one year to the next. Standing metonymically  in for the year that has passed, we use candles to visually represent important milestones in our lives, a common and easily communicated practice that Parreno engages across these works. Numbered according to the artist’s age at significant moments in his life, they are a discrete celebration of memory and personal history, as the artist has highlighted in relation to a 2010 iteration of the work now held in the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. As the artist explains:

    'I made those candles to celebrate the anniversary of my relationship with the Esther Schipper Gallery in Berlin, a long-lasting one, since I left art school, so I made those giant candles to evoke the association of an artist with his gallery, again a way of showing that things do not just happen, they are made to happen, through dialogue.'
    —Philippe Parreno

    Although presented in a museum space, these candles refer to an event that occurred in the world beyond the gallery walls, ‘deframing memory’ as it collapses the space between the event and the object’s record of it. Inviting participation with the viewer, the candles encourage us to revaluate our relationship to time, memory, and the nature of reality. Carved into their instantly recognisable corkscrew shape and finished in an assortment of bright, primary colours, Untiled (Interior Cartoons) are especially charged reminders of childhood, an association further emphasised by their cartoon-like appearance and exaggerated scale in relation to us. In this manner past, present, and future are brought into dynamic, mutually formative relations as the candles - rooted in the time of their own production - encourage viewers to draw out their own childhood memories within the constantly unfolding present moment. These performative, durational, and participatory elements are also embedded in the works themselves: presented stacked closely together in the corner of a room, ‘one can light them at will. They can perform again, potentially.’


    Philippe Parreno discusses his candle works with Jean Max Colard for Fondation Louis Vuitton


    Collaboration and creative exchange lie at the heart of Perreno’s art practice, and his work inspires generative connections with a diverse range of artists ranging from Marcel Duchamp to his mentor and collaborator Daniel Buren. While Duchamp’s recontextualisation of everyday items into Dada Readymades certainly chimes with Perreno’s ability to encourage a radical reconsideration of our relationship to our environment and the objects within it, Burren’s complication of the relationships between art, the viewer, and the space they both exist within is recorded in Perrono’s own, pioneering practice. In terms of the durational, performative, and material considerations at play in the present work, we might also be reminded of Urs Fischer’s wax sculptures, ephemeral works that centralise questions of transience and transformation. Much like Fischer’s monumental installation exhibited in the rotunda of the newly opened Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection in Paris, Untitled (Interior Cartoons) transcend language in their directness and universality, giving weight to Parreno’s observation that ‘I think the problem of art is form, and [form] is a complicated thing to do. Form is not an object, it is a moment of attention.’ii


    Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2011, Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection, Paris. Image: Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo, Artwork: © Urs Fischer 
    Urs Fischer, Untitled, 2011, Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection, Paris. Image: Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo, Artwork: © Urs Fischer 

    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Algeria in 1964, Philippe Parreno lives and works in Paris.


    • In addition to his films including the widely distributed Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Parreno has mounted major exhibitions in New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Paris. His work belongs to major international collections including the Pompidou, Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art


    • Documenting Francisco de Goya’s late Black Paintings, Parreno’s new film is currently on display at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, to coincide with their current Goya exhibition.


    i Philippe Parreno, quoted in Heather Corcoran, ‘Philippe Parreno explains the process behind some of his most important works’, Time Out, 1 July 2015, online.  
    ii Philippe Parreno, quoted in Van Badham, ‘Philippe Parreno: “To apply art to political resistance is always a bit complicated’, The Guardian, 8 December 2016, online.

    • Provenance

      Pilar Corrias, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, In scene gezet, 7 February 2015 – 28 February 2016

Property from a Distinguished Private Dutch Collection


Untitled (Interior Cartoons)

wax and wick, in 22 parts
each 175.3 x 20.3 x 20.3 cm (69 x 8 x 8 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022