Roy Lichtenstein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Leon Kraushar, New York
    Sterling Holloway
    Private Collection
    Anders Malmberg, Malmö
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in vibrant blues and fiery reds with glossy blacks, whites and reflective silver, Roy Lichtenstein’s Ceramic Sculpture #16 recalls the familiarity of consumerist objects that harken back to American diner culture of the 1960s. Executed in 1965, right at the time when the artist started regularly working with sculptural media like ceramic and enamel, the present lot reminds us of the power of paint. With his characteristic Ben-Day dots and blocks of color, the artist breaks down the three dimensional form of a leaning tower of cups and saucers into its graphic surface elements. In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein began working in ceramic, a surface which better allowed him to paint the vibrant graphics for which he is most well-known. In the present lot, these graphics are particularly striking, as rich blocks of color interact with metallic silver. On one side of the sculpture, the viewer is confronted with a reflective silver surface, juxtaposed with repetitive, deep blue Ben-Day dots that are themselves interrupted by wavy, imperfect red and black brushstrokes. On the other side of the sculpture, the elements are almost entirely painted over in a vibrant red, atop which are black Ben-Day dots. This unique blending of mechanized repetition with abstract brushstrokes mimics the same paradox that exists in the work itself. While confronted with a recognizable symbol of low culture, viewers are simultaneously faced with the sculpture’s lack of functionality and in turn, characterization of a high art object.

    The coffee cups are stacked atop each other in a teetering tower, as if left on the counter in haste. Such is the tromp-l’oeil effect that Lichtenstein so sought in his rendition of the all-American subject of the diner cup, erected at the height of consumerist culture in the 1960s. “I don’t care what, say, a cup of coffee looks like. I only care about how it’s drawn”, Lichtenstein explained of the subject matter (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Jack Cowart, ed., Roy Lichtenstein: Beginning to End, exh. cat., Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2007, pp. 118-119). In typical pop art fashion, Lichtenstein plays with a recognizable symbol and in turn challenges the viewer’s expectations and interpretations. Ceramic Sculpture #16 brings to mind something familiar, while also challenging the classification of fine art at mid-century.

  • Artist Biography

    Roy Lichtenstein

    One of the most influential and innovative American artists of the post-war period, Roy Lichtenstein ushered in the prominence of Pop Art through his high-impact representations of consumer imagery, common entertainment, and the accoutrements of contemporary life rendered in the Ben-Day dots of contemporary comic strips. Central to Lichtenstein’s practice was parody, which enabled the artist to engage with often-disparaged commercial source imagery from an ironic distance as he considered the nature of the banal and probed the boundaries of what fine art could be.


    While Lichtenstein’s early Pop work cemented his status as one of the main figures of one of the most iconic and original movements of postmodernism, he continued to develop his practice over the course of the following decades until his death in 1997. Retaining his characteristic comic style and ironic distance, Lichtenstein engaged new and disparate influences from Abstract Expressionism to Chinese landscape painting to evolve the subject of his own work and consider the contradictions of representation, style, and substance. Lichtenstein is a central figure in the 20th century art historical canon and accordingly his work is represented in the collections of major museums worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

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Ceramic Sculpture #16

signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein '65" on the underside
painted and glazed ceramic
10 3/8 x 7 3/8 x 6 3/4 in. (26.4 x 18.7 x 17.1 cm.)
Executed in 1965.

This work will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and is included in their online works listing.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $435,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 15 November 2017