Rachel Whiteread - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “From my close contact with artists and chess players…I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists”
    —Marcel Duchamp

    From its prehistoric origins in India, to being a favoured game of Renaissance European Royals, chess has long attracted great minds and fans alike. The World Championships in 1972 were a particular turning point for the game when America’s Bobby Fischer bested Russian Boris Spassky to win the competition, sparking a wave of popularity through the West. The event inspired the 1983 novel The Queen’s Gambit, followed by the 2020 Netflix hit series of the same name. While often viewed as a purely intellectual endeavour, countless artists have tried their hand at creating chessboards and figures, alongside playing the game themselves. Marcel Duchamp famously said, “from my close contact with artists and chess players…I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”


    In Modern Chess Set, Rachel Whiteread maintains her longstanding concern for gender roles and her preoccupation with all things domestic by modelling her own version of a chess set from replicas of vintage dollhouse furniture. An avid collector of doll houses and their contents – which culminated in Whitereads’ Place (Village) from 2008, an installation of 150 model houses amassed over twenty years – the artist uses these replicas in Modern Chess Set to allude to witty gender politics. Placing the miniature versions of everyday utilities and appliances, such as sinks, stoves, ironing boards, buckets, washtubs and wastebaskets against leisure-based furnishings like armchairs, radiators and televisions, Whiteread has set up a ‘traditional’ war of the sexes. The home environment from which these objects derive is presented as a site of work for women versus a site of leisure for men. Packaged in a wooden box referencing the advertising of the 1950s, the artist subtly challenges gender stereotyping in Modern Chess Set against a backdrop of nostalgia for a by-gone era.

    • Provenance

      Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009

    • Exhibited

      The Art of Chess, Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow (exh. cat.), 2006, p. 22-23 (another example illustrated)
      32 Pieces: The Art of Chess, Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland (exh. cat.), 24 January - 13 April 2009, p. 76-79 (another example illustrated)
      The Art of Chess, Dox Centre of Contemporary Art, Prague (exh. cat.), 2010, p. 25 (another example illustrated)

    • Literature

      Yves Marek, Art échecs et mat, Editions de l’imprimerie nationale, Paris, 2008, p. 183 (another example illustrated p. 176)
      George Dean, Chess Masterpieces. One thousand years of extraordinary chess sets, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2010, p. 266


Modern Chess Set

The complete chess set of 32 pieces in mixed media and board comprised of carpet, linoleum, plywood and beechwood, with accompanying instruction manual, all contained in the original foam-lined and printed wooden crate.
dimensions variable, black king 12 cm (4 3/4 in.) height
board 60.3 x 66 x 2.5 cm (23 3/4 x 25 7/8 x 7/8 in.)
crate 23.5 x 80.5 x 41 cm (9 1/4 x 31 3/4 x 16 1/8 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered '6' in black ink on the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity, from the edition of 7 (there were also 3 artist's proofs), published by RS&A Ltd., London.

Full Cataloguing

£6,000 - 8,000 ‡♠

Sold for £11,340

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 18 - 19 January 2023