Ron Mueck - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Anthony D'Offay Gallery, London
    Marguerite and Robert Hoffman, Dallas
    James Cohan Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Ron Mueck, September 5 – December 9, 2000
    Dusseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung im Standehaus, Startkapital, April 20 – September 8, 2002 (artist’s proof exhibited)
    Dusseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung im Standehaus, Sammlung Kunst der Gegenwart, July 2 – September 18, 2005, p. 168 (artist’s proof exhibited and illustrated, p. 167)
    Houston, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Ron Mueck, June 24 – October 21, 2007
    Southbank, National Gallery of Victoria; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery; Christchurch, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Ron Mueck, January 22, 2010 – January 23, 2011, p. 147
    Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Ron Mueck, February 26 – August 13, 2017

  • Literature

    Craig Raine, “Ron Mueck”, Aréte, no. 4, winter, 2000, pp. 119-120
    Plateau of Humankind, exh. cat., XXXXIX Biennale , Venice, 2001, p. 106
    Julian Heynan ed., Sammlung Ackermans: K21Kunstsammlung Nordrheim-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, 2002 (artist's proof detail illustrated, p. 31; artist's proof illustrated, p. 119)
    Continuity/Transgression, exh. cat., National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 2002, p. 72
    Ron Mueck, exh. cat., National Gallery, London, 2003, pp. 41, 56-57 (illustrated, p. 57)
    Alison Roberts, “Plastic Fantastic," The Guardian, April 20, 2003 (online)
    Heiner Bastian ed., Ron Mueck, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2005, no. 16, pp. 46-47, 76 (illustrated)
    Sue Spaid, “Ron Mueck”, ArtUS, no. 20, winter, 2007, p. 59
    Ron Mueck, exh. cat., 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 2008, p. 19 (illustrated)
    Ron Mueck, exh. cat. Fondation Cartier, Paris, 2013, pp. 184-85, 222 (illustrated)
    Craig Raine, More Dynamite: Essays 1990-2012, London, 2013, p. 455
    Susie Tommaney, “MFAH Brings Hauntingly Realistic Figures to Houston in ‘Ron Mueck,'" Houston Press, February 13, 2017 (illustrated online)
    Stephanie Eckhardt, “Ron Mueck’s Giant Sculptures of People are Mesmerizing, Very Unsettling," W Magazine, February 21, 2017 (illustrated online)
    Molly Glentzer, “Two Exhibits Take Vastly Different Approaches to Exploring our Existence," Houston Chronicle, March 3, 2017 (illustrated online)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Achieving unparalleled verisimilitude and commanding an arresting position between the natural and the surreal, Ron Mueck’s Man in Blankets, 2000, provides a captivating thesis on the human condition. As one of the most intimate works in the artist’s oeuvre, here Mueck has created a miniaturized likeness of a sleeping man, swaddled in womb-like folds of felt. Disquieting in its hyper-reality, this presentation of an elderly subject as a child deftly probes notions of human care and the cycle of mortality. Providing an all-too-real allegory of truth and lies, it was sculptures similar to the present one that first captivated influential collector Charles Saatchi, who subsequently acquired many of Mueck’s works and included the artist in the groundbreaking Sensation exhibition of 1997 that launched the YBA movement. Created in 2000, when Mueck began his two year tenure as Associate Artist at the National Gallery in London, this important work stems from a crucial point in the artist’s career and stands as testament to his enduring institutional recognition across the globe, evidenced most recently in his solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2017 and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2018.

    It is Mueck’s unparalleled virtuosity and ability to capture an uncanny essence off humanity that has sustained his widespread appreciation. Mueck builds works such as Man in Blankets through a multilayered process that begins with drawing and transitions through clay maquettes that are then cast in fiber glass. These casts are painted with meticulous detail and applied with human hair. From the corporal translucency of the skin, to the varied depth of wrinkles, enlarged pores and facial stubble, it is the virtuosic micro-detailing of Man in Blankets that imbues the figure with a captivating realism that we are instantly drawn to recognize elements of ourselves within. Mueck’s perpetual play with scale soon shatters this illusion however, and we experience a profound sense of distance as we realize that the humanity we view is merely a projection, a facade. The artist has neatly summarized this deep sense of intrigue: “I never made life-size figures because it never seemed to be interesting. We meet life-size people every day” (Ron Mueck, quoted in Sarah Tanguy, “The Progress Big Man A Conversation with Ron Mueck”, Sculpture, vol. 26, no. 6, July-August 2003, online).

    The exquisitely molded furrows of the figure's brow all gather towards an emotional intensity that elicits an empathetic reaction from the viewer. But the social dimension of this empathy is confused by Mueck’s challenge to scale and identity. The swaddled figure is far closer to the size of a newborn baby than an elderly male. Sleeping tensely in the fetal position, the figure presented in Man with Blankets, offers a compendium of the cycle of life – from birth to old age – with an emotive thread of vulnerability binding this holistic arc. Crucially the blanket sets up a theatrical viewing situation in which we peer into the orifice-like opening to enter the soft psychological realm of the infantilized sleeping adult. As such, it is reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s last major artwork, Étant donnés, 1946-66, which showed the tableau of a nude female visible only through two small peepholes. But unlike Duchamp, Mueck plays with a less sinister voyeurism by privileging the beauty of human vulnerability. Tensely sleeping in a dream state, between anguish and comfort, Man in Blankets provides a moving portrait of the fragility and temporality of human life.


Man in Blankets

mixed media
15 x 18 x 28 in. (38.1 x 45.7 x 71.1 cm)
Executed in 2000, this work is number 1 from an edition of 1 plus 1 artist's proof.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $447,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018