Robert Longo - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | Phillips

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  • To create Men in the Cities, Robert Longo's best-known series, the artist set up a camera on the rooftop of his Manhattan apartment building and invited his friends to be photographed. He proceeded to tie them up with ropes and hurl objects directly at them, aiming to capture their reactive movements in the resulting images. Their instinctive attempts to protects themselves and evade flying objects caused them to form dramatically contorted positions, evoking a range of imagery from interpretive dance or children playing to saints writhing with anguish. Longo subsequently projected these images onto paper, meticulously recreating the figures against a pristine white backdrop in his signature hyper-realistic, monochromatic style. With the New York rooftops and cloudy blue sky removed from the background, the figures are entirely decontextualised. Their striking positions seem to undermine the conventional associations of their professional attire, offering a light-hearted commentary on the superficiality of such clothing.


    Martin Schongauer, Saint Sebastian, 1470-1491, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1951, 51.516.2

    Longo’s inspiration for the series was borne from a neo-noir Rainer Fassbinder film titled The American Soldier (1970). In one of the film’s final scenes, two gangsters are shot and their deaths are depicted in an elegantly poetic suspension of movement. The slow-motion reel elevates their actions to that of a dance - a duet of the exaggerated and serene. Longo described the scene as a “compact kind of bang; at the same time, it has this incredibly fluid grace, the speed of grace.” The visual likeness of the film and the artist’s series cannot be ignored, but there was a larger theme at play. The 1970s and early 80s saw a desensitization growing in the American youth, due to extreme violence being depicted frequently in mainstream media. Longo said, “What ended up replacing dance or sports, was the way people die in movies.” Fittingly, a work from Men in the Cities features in the 2000 thriller, American Psycho: a perfectly rendered portrait of a writhing man decorates the apartment of a perfectly rendered Manhattanite serial killer. Perhaps Patrick Bateman’s character saw himself as a mirror image of Longo’s subject, dressed in his clean-cut suit as he fluidly evaded capture.

             “It seems like the gestures of Men in the Cities                       are very much about the time we live in,              that "jerking" into now.”
    —Robert Longo

    In 1981, the series was shown at the artist’s first solo show at Metro Pictures, New York, and it quickly became an iconic series associated with the Pictures Generation. The group, which was made up of Longo’s contemporaries, including Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, investigated the way meaning is made and circulated in modern society, drawing from semiotics and poststructuralist theory to address the hypnotizing power of the media.



    • Provenance

      Personal copy of the publisher and part of the Archive of Edition Schellmann since time of publication

    • Literature

      Jörg Schellmann, ed., Forty Are Better Than One, Munich/New York, 2009, p. 223
      ars publicata, Robert Longo Editions, 1985.02 [1-2]

Works from the Archive of Edition Schellmann to benefit the Ars Publicata Project


Men in the Cities (Gretchen and Eric)

The complete set of two lithographs, on Arches paper, the full sheets.
both S. 183 x 91.6 cm (72 x 36 1/8 in.)
Signed in black ink on the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity, an unnumbered proof aside from the edition of 48 (there were also 10 artist's proofs), published by Edition Schellmann, Munich and New York, both framed.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £38,100

Contact Specialist

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+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 17 - 18 January 2024