Robert Longo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Richly executed in the artist’s characteristic monochromatic charcoal on white paper, Untitled (Helmet), 2013, looms over the viewer on a monumental scale. Throughout Longo’s oeuvre, whilst employing a forcefully beautiful aesthetic, the artist depicts his fascination with symbols of power and the relationship with the subject of life and death. In the present example, we see the artist’s attempt to recharge classic archetypes by reigniting mythologies from the various backgrounds that form our current cultural and political climate. An extension of Robert Longo’s Heroes series (2009) and Armors series (2013), the source of the present work is the Turban helmet (migfer), commonly used throughout the Islamic world from the mid-14th century to the early 16th century. Longo captures the intricate details of the decorated fluted surface and calligraphy decoration, a popular form of design on Islamic arms and armour.


    Turkish Migfer Turban Helmet, XVème siècle, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York ©Rogers Fund, 1904, D.R.
    Turkish Migfer Turban Helmet, XVème siècle, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York ©Rogers Fund, 1904, D.R.

    Robert Longo on the Origins of His Use of Charcoal


    ‘Christmas vacation, NYC, 1999. The pace of the city slows over the holidays and I wanted to take advantage of the quiet solitude I could find in my studio. I wanted to draw but I was out of graphite pencils. I looked around the studio for something to use instead and found a box of very old charcoal sticks and a sealed jar of charcoal powder buried in the back of the supply closet. I never liked charcoal, it always seemed so messy and imprecise… But then I thought, OK, I’m here. Try the charcoal… The work is labor intensive. The drawings are executed on heavyweight paper mounted onto honeycomb aluminium. First, a heavy layer of charcoal is rubbed into the paper by hand, creating a dense velvet-like surface. I use charcoals that range in density, tonal value and color of the blacks. Then I apply charcoal powder with brushes. Various types of erasers play an integral role in carving out and sculpting the image. The white in the drawings is always the untouched surface of the paper.’ 

    • Provenance

      Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris
      Private Collection, Europe
      Sotheby's, Paris, 7 June 2016, lot 40
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Untitled (Helmet)

signed and dated 'Robert Longo 2013' lower right
charcoal on paper mounted on aluminium, in artist’s frame
211 x 155 cm (83 1/8 x 61 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £138,600

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021