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

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  • Key and Cue, No. 1609 – Sunset That Screens, Reveals belongs to one of Roni Horn’s best-known series of work. Deeply affected by the distinctly singular approach to language evidenced in Emily Dickinson’s writings, Horn materialises striking lines from the nineteenth-century author’s letters and poems in elongated sculptural forms. In a project begun in the early 1990s, plastic letters are set within aluminium rods. Designed to be displayed propped against a wall, the bars reveal their text when viewed from the front. A side-view of the work yields abstract white and black bars that visualise Horn’s conviction in the subjective nature of both language and art – each viewer establishes a different interpretation of the sculptural work and corresponding meaning of Dickinson’s text depending on their own physical position in the gallery.


    The Key and Cues series from which the present work is drawn, takes the first lines of Dickinson’s poems as its subject matter. Horn relates that these lines ‘became a kind of “cue”, like a reference point, a direction, a necessary tool in itself’ to explore new realms of possibility prompted by the sensibility of the American poet’s writing.i The present sculpture materialises the first line of Dickinson’s four-line poem, No. 1609:

    Sunset that screens, reveals
    Enhancing what we see
    By menaces of Amethyst
    And Moats of Mysteryii


    Employing distinctly painterly language, Dickinson expresses the transformative power of light which serves as a metaphor for the veiling and unveiling of human perception. The rods make it possible to ‘walk among’ the poet’s words – to have what Horn describes as ‘an actual experience in time’ – facilitated by the powerful material encounter with language.iii


    i Roni Horn, quoted in ‘A brush with… Roni Horn’, The Art Newspaper, 16 December 2020, online

    ii Emily Dickinson, ‘Sunset that screens, reveals’, Emily Dickinson Archive, online

    iii Roni Horn, quoted in ‘A brush with… Roni Horn’, The Art Newspaper, 16 December 2020, online 

    • Provenance

      Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in May 2000


Key and Cue, No. 1609 - Sunset That Screens, Reveals

stamped '1609' on the underside
solid aluminium and plastic with hand sanded finish
156.6 x 5.4 x 5.2 cm (61 5/8 x 2 1/8 x 2 in.)
Executed in 1996/2000, this work is number 2 from an edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £75,600

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021