Rudolf Stingel - Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Massimo de Carlo, Milan
    Simon Lee Gallery, London
    Emily Tsingou Gallery, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…[I] wanted to be against a certain way of thinking about art…to question its ability to inspire awe.”
    Rudolf Stingel, 2004

    Rudolf Stingel sources his materials from the quotidian. The intricate patterns of carpeting and the thick and tufted surfaces of insulation provide the media for two of his most renowned series of works. The present lot, Untitled, 2003 is composed of Celotex tuff, a material technically is a high performance insulation board featuring low emissivity foil facing. This visually splendid material has a mirror-like quality, as its surroundings are reflected in the peaks and valleys of its etched surface. Looking across the artist’s panorama of work, the emphasis on the reflective qualities of gold and silver is a hallmark of the artist’s vast oeuvre. Stingel’s work consistently suggests a visual turn towards the voluptuousness of the Baroque and the Rococo, with its swirling patterns and polished surfaces. Celotex’s tufting has a slick visual surface with a soft and delicate backing; a simple push of the finger into the surface leaves a permanent mark. The sleekness of their surfaces converses with the purity of Minimalism, while simultaneously their chaotic participatory markings make reference to the emotional intensity and tactile brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism. “Stingel’s work traffics in the stylistic markers of Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism. But he reduces those markers to features of ordinary experience and leaves the animating theoretical and expressive impulses of both movements behind.” (J. Gilmore, Art in America, October 2000)

    Stingel’s series of Celotex paintings are first exhibited as blank silver surface, waiting for a viewer to approach and to forever change its existence. In a softly lit room, the viewer is invited to vandalize the pristine surfaces with “anything they happen to have with them: pens, money, credit cards, cellphones.”(R. Smith, “Making Their Mark,” New York Times, October 13, 2007) Installed in a gallery space, the mirrored panels create a fun house effect, one of both disorientation and fascination. Once the untouched panels have been defaced by the viewer turned participant, the painting transforms from a one-dimensional work to one of sculptural dynamism: the work becomes equal parts painting, sculpture, and performance. Stingel has removed his own hand from the artistic process and has instead “invited the spectator to debunk the pristine purity of museum walls and subvert expectations of artistic authorship.” (Press Release, Rudolph Stingel, 2009, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York) This participatory approach to mark making is reminiscent of Felix González-Torres’ renowned process art pieces including his candy installations which invited the viewer to take a piece with them. By allowing the viewer to remove a piece of the whole, González-Torres was in fact encouraging the slow dissolution of his composition in the same manner that Stingel encourages a slow construction of the final artistic realization.

    The seductive nature of Stingel’s paintings invites the viewer to lean closer into a luminous and dynamic environment, in order to interact with its receptive and pliant physicality. The plush surface holds impressions, dents, and inscriptions; it celebrates the collective impulse to make marks, to leave a trace of having been present. The question of mark making and the autonomy of the brushstroke that has been at the heart of modernist painting are here re-interrogated by Stingel with remarkable results. The present lot is the embodiment of the transience of traces that adorn the surface of the work. The silver foil has been slashed and cut to reveal the pale yellow insulation lying directly below, while a cyan blue marker has created bubble like outlines on the lower quadrant of the composition. Myriad words can be made out, including “JULIE,” “FILLES” and “JE TOMBE.” Reminiscent of graffiti and tagging, the present lot explodes with suggestive verbal clues and half eclipsed signs of unknown lives left by viewers/participants.

    “Stingel imports the sign-language of toilets, underpasses, and bus-stops into the museum, not by quoting and portraying it, but by turning the very act of so-called vandalism into a constitutive element of his art in the museum. Suddenly the path from the formal aesthetic abstraction to real-world social concretion is very short.” (J. Heiser, “Medium and Membrane,”Parkett, Zurich/New York, 2006, no. 77, p. 125) By collapsing his singular authorship with that of the public participants, Stingel explores the visual disruption of the art object removed from the protective space of the studio. Observing beauty in these creative destructions, Stingel stated on the occasion of his retrospective, “The abstract shell appeared to be perfect in a provocative way and apparently invited [each individual] to manifest [his impulse]. Numerous motives appear to have led to this behavior; the neutrality of the installation paired with the anonymity of the visitors certainly plays a role.” (Rudolf Stingel, 2007)

  • 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.

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Celotex tuff mounted on canvas
63 1/4 x 46 5/8 in. (160.7 x 118.4 cm)

$400,000 - 600,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, Design
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 3 March 2015 6pm