Richard Serra - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Almost hypnotic, the ellipses of Richard Serra’s Finally Finished III captivate as they weave and flow in a weightless manner, as if soaring through a void. Simultaneously, however, the heavy black of the deeply etched forms carries a sense of materiality, firmly rooting them in our presence. Immense in scale, Finally Finished III was created using a deeply etched copper plate – a technique Serra has developed over decades. The resulting highly-textured surface creates a composition almost sculptural in form, closely related to Serra’s renowned Torqued Ellipses – massive, curved steel plates typically situated in expansive, site-specific settings that allow visitors to meander among the sculpture. Similarly, the mesmerising forms of Finally Finished III envelop the viewer and invite us to get lost among the shapes, brimming with energy as they effortlessly spin whilst being grounded with a palpable weight.

    “The prints are the result of trying to assess and define what surprises me in a sculpture, what I could not understand before a work was built. They enable me to understand different aspects of perception as well as the structural potential of a given sculpture.”
    —Richard Serra

    In the early 1960s, during and shortly after his Fine Art studies at Yale, Serra and his contemporary Minimalist artists sought to relieve sculpture of its traditional symbolic constraints through exploring unconventional, industrial techniques to refocus on process and material. Liberated from the confines of traditional pedestals and placed in the tangible space of the viewer, this shift forged a novel connection between the sculpture and its audience, emphasising the phenomenological encounter as paramount in defining the works significance. Crucially, it was paramount to Serra that the work’s process of creation was revealed in the sculpture itself. As Serra described, “The residue of the activities didn’t always qualify as art. I was primarily interested in the process and it was important that whatever was finally made reveal its making”. We find this sentiment in his etchings too; for instance in the rough ink splatters of Finally Finished III , which are scattered across the picture-plane as though they've spun out during the ellipse formation, evoking both the laborious process of the print’s creation and spiral forms' entrancing sense of motion.



    Serra’s prints are exclusively nonrepresentational in nature and are executed solely using black pigment. While a student at Yale, Serra was asked to proof his tutor Josef Albers’ book, The Interaction of Color (1963), which laid out Alber’s principles on the axioms, rules and effects of colour. This experience, and Alber’s teaching in general, likely influenced Serra’s interest in abstraction and monochromatic art significantly, particularly regarding the theoretical notions that would be the foundations of his artistic practise. Explaining his use of black, Serra said: “In terms of weight, black is heavier, creates a larger volume, holds itself in a more compressed field.” Much like Albers, Serra was not interested in “paint allusion gesture” and so, for Serra, using solely black was a way to avoid metaphorical and other associative misreadings. Much alike his sculpture, in his prints we find Serra seeking to avoid external connotations, placing process, form, and experience as paramount.

    “Serra’s etchings recreate in another medium the kinetic experiencing of his sculpture, rephrasing the temporal and spatial understanding of it. Serra’s prints are never preliminary renderings for sculptures nor duplications of them. He thinks of the prints and other works on paper as “distillations” of his reactions to the [sculptural] work.”
    —Richard H. Axsom

    Today, in an age of information overload in which news, social media and technology flood our daily lives, Serra’s work is timelier and more resonant than ever. The late artist was one of the most significant figures of his generation and, following his passing in March 2024, he has left behind a monumental legacy. The title of Finally Finished III is a subtle nod to Serra’s lengthy process of creating this print, as the origins of the edition date back to early as 1999, almost two decades before its completion. Thus, for an artist renowned for his unwavering work ethic, prolific output, and tireless perfectionism, this print is testament to a lifetime of dedicated, passionate artistic creation.

    • Literature

      Gemini G.E.L. 3563


Finally Finished III (G. 3563)

Monumental etching in black, on Fuji Kozo paper, the full sheet.
S. 189.9 x 151.1 cm (74 3/4 x 59 1/2 in.)
Signed, dated '2017' and numbered 23/44 (there were also 10 artist's proofs), published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles (with their blindstamps), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £69,850

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024