Richard Serra - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Richard Serra, 'Elevational Weights, Vertical Mass', Lot 39

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Riehen, Fondation Beyeler; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Constantin Brancusi and Richard Serra, 22 May 2011 - 15 April 2012, p. 242 (illustrated, p. 142)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A prodigious study in space, light and matter, Elevational Weights, Vertical Mass belongs to Richard Serra’s eponymous series of paintstick drawings created in 2010. Delving ever-deeper in his investigation of the colour black, Serra here allows the pigment to run across the quasi-totality of the handmade paper, equating the paintstick’s density and thickness to sculptural matter and thus transforming two-dimensional space into a haptic arena. ‘In terms of weight’, he declared, ‘black is heavier, creates a larger volume, holds itself in a more compressed field’ (Richard Serra, quoted in From the Collection: 1960-69, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016, n.p.). With the present work, Serra substantiates his claim by endowing the penetrating hue with a true weight; one that he dubs ‘elevational’, perhaps due to the horizontal section of white paper that haloes the rest of the heavy composition. A testament to the importance of this series within Serra’s wider body of work, three examples from the artist’s collection were shown at Serra’s first-ever retrospective of drawings, travelling from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from October 2011 to June 2012.

    Though he remains principally recognised for his monumental steel and lead sculptures, Serra has conceded that the medium of drawing was always the beating heart of his artistic practice. ‘I've been drawing all my life’, Serra once remarked. ‘Drawing is another way of thinking’ (Richard Serra, in interview with Charlie Rose, 21 April 2011, video). With his paintstick drawings, commenced in the mid-1970s, the artist employs the essential tenets of drawing whilst retaining the charisma of sculpture, materialised in the thickness of the applied matter. These works, defined by their irregular surfaces and palpable appeal, are reminiscent of Ha Chong-Hyun’s sensuous paintings; conveying varying impressions of thickness, the Dansaekhwa artist’s idiosyncratic works are made by applying colour on hemp-woven canvas from its verso. To achieve his paintstick drawings, Serra employs a comparably physical method: first, he melts down individual sticks and combines them into large paintstick bricks, then he tackles the medium directly and with both hands. In this way, he not only creates new visual forms and textures but more importantly invents a whole new process, of which the present work is an enthralling example.

Property of an Important Collector


Elevational Weights, Vertical Mass

paintstick on handmade paper, in artist's frame
sheet 244 x 166 cm (96 1/8 x 65 3/8 in.)
overall 253.8 x 174.8 cm (99 7/8 x 68 7/8 in.)

Executed in 2010.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £447,000

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Senior Director
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Director, Senior Specialist
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019