Robert Wilson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Robert Wilson’s internationally recognized impact on the realms of theater, opera, visual arts, and design has been described as “monumental” by the New York Times. Over the last decade and a half, Wilson added another chapter to this legacy by creating a series of Video Portraits that distill all of his artistic vocabulary into a tangible, permanent, yet portable medium that can be experienced intimately in a variety of settings. Now, in 2021, Robert Wilson is offering a select few of his Video Portraits as unique and authenticated digital tokens. Decoupling these works from their previous physical manifestations to exist solely in this new digital domain is the logical next step in realizing the creative and technical vision Wilson first pitched to the founder of Sony nearly 50 years ago.

The Portraits themselves reveal individual narratives in subtle, perpetual motion, but without a discernible beginning or end. The result at first may look like a still photograph, but on closer inspection one perceives Wilson’s highly developed language of minimal movement, choreographed gesture, and precise timing––all set against a backdrop of Wilson’s trademark hues and meticulous lighting.


    The artist’s Video Portraits are infused with source materials found throughout the history of painting, design, dance, theater, photography, television, film, as well as myriad elements from contemporary popular culture. Reflecting this lineage, the current lot, GAGA/MARAT, 2021 is a restaging of French painter Jacques-Louis David’s famous 1793 work The Death of Marat. After viewing the painting in the Louvre and learning it was one of several official versions by David’s studio, Wilson was inspired to explore the concept of authenticity. True to his theatrical roots, Wilson became interested in the narrative around David’s composition, which depicts Jean-Paul Marat, a radical journalist who fueled the French Revolution, lying dead in his bathtub after his stabbing by young Royalist sympathizer Charlotte Corday. Painted in the months after Marat's murder, it has been described as the first modernist painting for "the way it took the stuff of politics as its material and did not transmute it.”


    Jacques Louis David (studio of).  Death of Marat. 1793. Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm. Inv.: RF 1945-2. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France Photo Credit:  © RMN-Grand Palais / Photo: Martine Beck-Coppola / Art Resource, NY

    Inspired by the depiction of Marat’s beatified features, Wilson collaborated with pop artist Lady Gaga to recreate the scene as one of his Video Portraits. Gaga posed as Marat and voiced an accompanying audio score based on the erotic writings of the Marquis de Sade. The result became one of a series Wilson created of Lady Gaga posing as portrait subjects from the Louvre’s collection. Inspired by the rich history of The Death of Marat, Wilson recently re-edited this work for minting as a unique and authenticated digital token. This new iteration serves as a continuation of Wilson’s engagement with themes of reproduction, authenticity, and editioning found in the painting’s subject matter and medium. This contemporary turn toward digital media also reflects the late eighteenth century shifts in journalism and reportage referenced by David.


    As one of the first examples by a renowned artist in this new medium, GAGA/MARAT, 2021 re-conceptualizes the vanguard role the iconic revolutionary painting played in 1793 and carries it forward as a new, postmodern work for 2021.


    New art has always been uncomfortable, whether it was new in the 17th century or today. Being new it is therefore unfamiliar. Being unfamiliar, it is unsettling until it becomes familiar. The artist’s Video Portraits are part of a long tradition in the history of art, but use new media. Rather than using oil paint and canvas, Wilson uses video photography, monitors, and now the blockchain. What are now considered the old masters were all great works by equally radical contemporary artists of earlier eras––they simply are the ones whose revolutionary nature has stood the test of time.


  • The Seller of this Lot has notified Phillips that at the Buyer’s written request to Seller, the Seller will transfer to Buyer a physical, full-length version of Robert Wilson’s Lady Gaga/Death of Marat Video Portrait displayed on a 49-inch monitor to play on a loop (“Video Screen”).  Upon full payment of the Purchase Price, Phillips will provide the Buyer with the Seller’s contact details so they may coordinate directly with the Seller for this transfer.   Please note that the Video Screen is not part of the Lot offered by Phillips and that the Buyer and the Seller will be responsible for making all transfer arrangements.

    The Video Screen is not covered by Phillips’ Authorship Warranty, and Phillips also makes no representations or warranties about its nature, condition, description, uniqueness, functionality, compatibility, durability, or the availability of this physical work, either now or in the future, or that it will function in the manner Seller intends. Seller shall be responsible for maintaining control and possession of the Video Screen prior to transfer to the Buyer, and at no point in time will Phillips be responsible for any physical loss or damage to the Video Screen.

  • Further Information on NFTs

    Which currency will bidding be denominated in?

    The auction will be conducted and invoiced in US dollars (USD).

    What forms of payment are accepted? 

    Payments are due in either USD or in Ether. Each bidder will be responsible for conducting their own U.S. Dollar to Ether cryptocurrency conversion throughout the online-only auction and at the time of each of their bids, and you acknowledge and agree that cryptocurrency rates fluctuate regularly and the conversion rate may change during the course of the online-only auction and you are responsible for the payment of a winning bid at the rate of exchange at the time payment is made by you, and not at a previous rate of exchange. 

    Are there resale royalties due to the artist on secondary market sales?      

    The NFT is subject to resale royalties on any subsequent resales of the NFT. On any subsequent resale of the NFT, the successful bidder and buyer of the NFT at the auction may be obligated on Seller’s behalf to collect and remit to Seller resale royalties as applicable equal to 10% of the sale price of the NFT. Other resale royalties and transaction duties imposed by law may also apply in relation to such resales. 


    • You are bidding as principal and not on behalf of anyone else

    • You have a wallet capable of supporting and accepting a ERC721 token

    • You accept and understand that payment can be made in Ether only if made:

      • from a single wallet registered to you;

      • using funds belonging to you; and

      • maintained by one of the following:

        • Coinbase Custody Trust;

        • Coinbase, Inc.;

        • Fidelity Digital Assets Services, LLC;

        • Gemini Trust Company, LLC; or

        • Paxos Trust Company, LLC.


    Payments from digital wallets hosted at other exchanges or self-hosted wallets will not be recognized or accepted and in such circumstances, payment will be required in US dollars.


    If you are the successful bidder you agree to provide us with all information and documentation, we request in order to verify your identity and to confirm that the Ether payment was made from a digital wallet registered in your name and maintained at by one of the platforms above. Partial payments of a lot from multiple digital wallets will not be accepted.


    Please view the full NFT Conditions of Sale.

    • Provenance

      The Artist



Token ID: 1
Contract Address: 0xae1f...1538

Non-Fungible Token (ERC-721)
MP4: 71.4 MB, 02:06 minutes
Minted on June 3, 2021, this work is unique.

For this particular lot please see the special NFT Conditions of Sale, which govern the sale of this Lot, published on Phillips’ website (, under the “New York Guide” dropdown menu. Please read the NFT Conditions of Sale carefully before bidding.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate On Request

Sold for $15,120

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250


20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021