Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Initially working in a photorealist style as a commercial portrait artist until the 1980s, Italian-born artist Rudolf Stingel became a prominent figure that dealt with Conceptual painting with his constant experimentation with collective participation and in doing so, expanded the ways of creating art throughout his prolific career. His continued embracement of the Conceptual movement in the late 1980s, despite its decline in popularity, allowed for an exploration in the process of creation. Based upon an underlying conceptual framework and working with non-traditional materials that were  unassociated with fine art, Stingel actively moves away from the constraints of paint and canvas, instead placing an emphasis on the creating process and its effect on his audiences. Visually pleasing yet radically counter-institutional, the artist’s enigmatically impressive oeuvre brings to question the contemporary notions of authenticity, meaning, hierarchy and authorship in redefining  painting as a medium.


    “All possible pictures have already been made. The only useful thing left to do, I believe, is to confront yourself with the picture, pushing it almost to the edge of a pit of failure and destruction.”
    — Rudolf Stingel


    Destructive Beauty


    Untitled is an iconic example of Stingel’s famed monochromatic Celotex works, which stems from a site-specific series of environmental installations investigating the relationship between beauty, alchemy, and ephemerality. First initiated in 2001 at his solo exhibition at the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Trento, Italy, this participatory installation was then repeated at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003); Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2006); and at his mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Art, Chicago (2007), which travelled to the Whitney Museum of Amerian Art, New York, later that year. Much more than a static piece of art, the metallic form represents the finished product of a multi-step mark-making approach that begins with an interactive installation. Plastering the walls and floors of gallery spaces with insulation panels, Stingel invites those visiting to interact with the mirrored surfaces.


    “The first time I covered a gallery with insulation board, I knew that people would walk on it and ruin the floor, but I was stunned that they would write or draw on the walls.”
    — Rudolf Stingel


    Although visitors were not given explicit instructions on how to interact with their surroundings, the panels naturally eroded from human movement due to their malleability, which in turn empowered some to further engage through inscriptions on the walls. Going against common museum protocol of one not being allowed to touch art, Stingel centers his work around the creative potential of destruction. By inviting his audience to draw, write and make imprints, he effectively removes any artistic privilege from the mark of the individual and hands it over to the collective gestures of thousands of viewers in these installations. As a result, the weight of the human body is felt, as literal impressions of the human passage, through the many marks and fractures on the defaced surfaces.


    Installation view of the current lot at Milan, Massimo De Carlo, Rudolf Stingel, 16 September - 8 November 2014


    Undertaking the conceptual framework of these environmental installations from the 2000s, cast in copper and plated with nickel, Untitled is a prime example that harkens back to his Celotex paintings from that period and can be seen as a poetic monument celebrating and memorialising the passage of time. Like the fragments of those inscribed walls, every indentation and imperfection, and even the most delicate surface detail, is captured through a unique electroplating process - a method devised and developed to ensure detailed copies of each insulation panel, transforming the random marks and inscriptions alchemically and permanently into a pristine, reflective surface that is new and imbued with an otherworldly beauty.  As a result, the present work is a masterful snapshot of timeless opulence that captures a specific moment in time, encompassing each stage of its creation.


    Redefining Painting: In Dialogue with His Contemporaries


    Be it silkscreen paintings or carpet installations, the process of creation has remained central to Stingel’s artistic investigation. In 1989, he published Instructions, a manual directing readers towards the steps and tools needed to create their own Stingel painting. Exploring the essence of making, gesture, and expression, Stingel challenges the traditional boundaries of art and its hierarchies, rethinking the parameters of painting, a theme that is carried onto his Celotex works, and parallels that of his many radical contemporaries.


    Yves Klein, La Grande Anthropométrie bleue (The Great Blue Anthropometry), 1960
    Collection of the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao
    © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


    Rejecting typical methods of artmaking, instead of using paint or ink, Stingel incorporates performance into the work, echoing the work of French artist Yves Klein, in particularly, his Anthropometry series, where he employed models as “living paintbrushes” to press their blue paint-covered bodies against prepared sheets of paper. Like Klein, Stingel utilises the human body as a medium, capturing the fleeting momentary exchanges and eventually turning them into sculptural forms. Whilst Klein’s paintings gravitate towards abstracted traces of his subjects, Untitled presents a literal record of its associated performance, in which participation becomes the main component of its aesthetic value.


    Installation view of Jirō Yoshihara, Please Draw Freely at Ashiya, Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition, 27 July – 4 August, 1956


    Inviting the audience into his artistic process, Stingel introduces another crucial element in his works, that is the very allure – chance. While the artist anticipates interaction, he is unable to control what his visitors choose to mark or destroy, removing any artistic privilege of the individual. This idea of going beyond the conventional boundaries and pursuing the possibilities of pure creativity is similarly found in the Gutai movement through the works of Yoshihara Jirō. Setting up a board within Ayisha Park, his 1956 work Please Draw Freely invited children to draw as they please on its surface. In doing so, both artists further go against the idea of singular creative acts by complete removal of their presence.


    “I am by far not the first one questioning the “fairy tale of the creativity of the artist.” It derived first and foremost from a feeling of honesty towards myself.”
    — Rudolf Stingel

    When creating a traditional painting, the artist is granted authorship through the completion of the final work with their own hands. While Stingel remains involved through the conception of his multi-step pieces, each course of action in the creation process is instead spearheaded by other individuals: the viewers first collectively take part in marking the panels, and the cast is then produced by craftsman Jan Eugster. With no trace of Stingel’s hand, the present work questions the notions of authorship and the significance of third-party involvement in these works. Rather than focusing on the final product of a finished cast, Stingel presents art at its most inclusive, offering viewers an alternate viewpoint by repositioning  intentionality and collaboration as its most important aspect. Toying with the boundaries of artistic genres and definitions, the beauty of Untitled lies not in its sheen, but its redefinition of what painting can be – singular yet participatory, ephemeral yet ever-lasting.


     Rudolf Stingel at Fondation Beyeler. Interview with Art Producer Jan Eugster


    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Merano, Italy in 1956, Rudolf Stingel gained prominence in the New York art scene for his 1989 conceptual manual Instructions. Since then, his cross-boundary works have continued to challenge preconceived notions of painting and creative production. Represented by Gagosian, Stingel had worked with the gallery on a number of shows, including his monumental, eight-part exhibition at their New York gallery in 2015 that showcased his artistic versatility

    • Stingel has been the subject of numerous self-titled solo exhibition in recent years. This includes at Gagosian in Paris (17 March – 27 May 2021); at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York (5 November – 22 December 2022); at Sadie Coles HQ in London (31 October–17 December 2022); and at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin (8 September – 11 December 2021)

    • Provenance

      Massimo De Carlo, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Milan, Massimo De Carlo, Rudolf Stingel, 16 September - 8 November 2014

    • Artist Biography

      Rudolf Stingel

      Italian • 1956

      Rudolf Stingel came to prominence in the late 1980s for his insistence on the conceptual act of painting in a context in which it had been famously declared dead. Despite the prevailing minimalist and conceptual narrative of the time, the Italian-born artist sought to confront the fundamental aspirations and failures of Modernist painting through the very medium of painting itself. While his works do not always conform to the traditional definitions of painting, their attention to surface, space, color and image provide new and expanded ways of thinking about the process and "idea" of painting. Central to his multifarious and prolific oeuvre is an examination of the passage of time and the probing of the fundamental questions of authenticity, meaning, hierarchy, authorship and context by dislocating painting both internally and in time and space. Stingel is best known for his wall-to-wall installations, constructed of fabric or malleable Celotex sheets, as well as his seemingly more traditional oil-on-canvas paintings.

      View More Works



electroformed copper, plated nickel and stainless steel
120 x 120 x 4 cm. (47 1/4 x 47 1/4 x 1 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

HK$7,000,000 - 10,000,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 6 October 2023