Rosemarie Trockel - Modern & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York New York Monday, June 17, 2024 | Phillips
  • Rosemarie Trockel is considered one of the foremost contemporary artists in Germany. Since her breakthrough into the international art scene in the 1980s, Trockel has been celebrated as a trailblazer of conceptual art, employing an array of media to create socially critical works that challenge traditional power structures. She appropriates aesthetics from Pop Art and modern abstraction to raise questions about the gender norms and other power dynamics within the art world, adding another layer of critique to her creations.


    Much of her visual language centers around preconceptions and societal norms, often drawing upon imagery of the everyday to convey peculiarities of the human condition at large. In turn, many of her works function almost as visual puzzles, provoking viewers to consider their own assumptions surrounding the quotidian objects depicted and then undermining them through an extrapolation to a societal level. However, Trockel’s works often defy a single narrative explanation, as associations amongst her works in relation to one another engender further social commentaries.


    Installation by Rosemarie Trockel titled One Eye too Many, Arsenale. Biennale 2019. Image: © Giuseppe Anello |, Artwork: © 2024 Rosemarie Trockel / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    In the present example, Once Upon a Time, 2019, a rusted antique yellow oil can stands alone amidst a white background. A drum mallet hangs from a string in front of the cannister, rendered just out of focus so as to convey a path of motion leading the mallet head directly towards the face of the cannister. The composition of the work suggests an overarching Rube Goldberg-esque contraption where the mallet continues to strike the can into perpetuity. Aside from a potential pun on the phrase “oil drum,” perhaps Trockel is using this sense of inevitability to challenge humanity’s steadfast reliance on fossil fuels, as symbolized by the aged oil can, whose continued existence and lifespan reflects the substance’s long history as one of the ultimate commodities in the modern world. However, the works shown alongside Once Upon a Time at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019 carry a palpable set of gendered associations. Images of a woman in a bathing suit and a shirtless male bodybuilder are flanked by professional portraits of another man and woman in formal wear, inviting a series of critiques regarding sexism in the workforce.


    Born in 1952 in Schwerte, Trockel graduated from the Werkkunstschule of Cologne in 1978. Solo shows of her work have been held at the New Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid and Kunstmuseum Basel. In 1999, she became the first female artist to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale. She represented the country again in 2019 and 2022. Her work is held in the collections of the Tate, London, The Art Institute of Chicago and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

    • Provenance

      Sprüth Magers, Berlin
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Venice, The Arsenale, 58th Venice Biennale, May 11–November 24, 2019


Once Upon a Time

digital print on paper, flush-mounted to Forex
47 3/4 x 42 1/4 in. (121.3 x 107.3 cm)
Executed in 2019, this work is unique and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $10,160

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Modern & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York

17 - 26 June 2024