Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, Paris
    Private Collection, Canada
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Gagosian Gallery, Rudolf Stingel, October 16 - December 22, 2012
    Bordeaux, L'Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez, Dreams of Venice, March 23 – July 21, 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    "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

    An iconic example of Rudolf Stingel’s acclaimed Celotex works that was exhibited at the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez in Bordeaux in 2013, Untitled enthralls the viewer with its sheer monumentality and the opulence of its metallic surface. While evoking such precious objects as religious Byzantine mosaics or icon paintings, closer consideration reveals how the richly textured surface is incised by banal graffiti. Individual words and symbols, such as “bronze” emblazoned at the lower right, can be deciphered, while other marks and scribbles coalesce into an abstract composition – simultaneously bearing witness to, and also transcending, the work’s complex process of creation. Untitled belongs to the group of works that originated from the site-specific, participatory installations mounted at Stingel’s major mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 2007, where visitors were invited to transform the walls covered with easily malleable Celotex insulation paneling with whatever was to hand. Executed in 2012, the present work is among the first works that Stingel created by casting these panels and electroplating them in copper. Immortalizing the traces of this anonymous, collective activity in such a monumental way, Untitled proffers a poetic monument to the passage of time.

    Both visually and conceptually arresting, Untitled brilliantly epitomizes Stingel’s over three-decade long inquiry into the fundamental questions of painting, authorship and originality. While representing a continuation of the central themes of Stingel’s practice that catapulted him to critical acclaim in the late 1980s, Untitled specifically represents the culmination of the series of site-specific Celotex installations first initiated with Stingel’s solo exhibition at the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Trento, Italy in 2001. For this exhibition, Stingel covered the floor, walls and ceiling of the gallery space with metallic insulation panels to create a hall of mirrors of sorts. The ideal appearance of this installation did not endure for very long, as the malleable surface of the floor gradually eroded under visitor footsteps and likely empowered some to impulsively target the walls with their inscriptions - the inscribed names, patterns, messages, insults and symbols gradually dissolving into a populist cacophony of text and scribbles. Whereas much of Stingel’s previous practice already embraced the concept of visitor participation in the creation of an artwork, such as his earlier wall-to-wall carpet installations or concurrently created Styrofoam works, this was the first time visitors radically departed from museum protocol and intentionally left their marks in the seductively shimmering walls. As Stingel explained, “I hadn’t planned on this reaction. This 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. I wouldn’t know where to say intervention stops and destruction begins” (Rudolf Stingel, quoted in Reiner Zettl, “The Trickster”, in Francesco Bonami, Rudolf Stingel, Chicago, 2007, p. 35).

    In his successive site-specific Celotex installations at, amongst others, the 50th Venice Biennial in 2003 and Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2006, Stingel actively encouraged this kind of visitor participation and crucially memorialized the outcome of this collective activity by isolating select panel fragments and, without any further modification, presenting them as autonomous paintings. Within his exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2007, Stingel presented these singular works alongside the respective participatory installation – the juxtaposition essentially putting forward the notion of painting as an expanded field of activity that is not limited to the canvas, but unfolds under the artist’s direction. It was notably with the small grouping of works from 2012, to which Untitled belongs, that he first employed the alchemical process of casting and electroplating to create detailed 1:1 copies of the graffiti-inscribed walls. The laborious copper casting process thereby retains every fracture and indentation of the once pristine reflective surface, while the gilded copper veneer imbues the panels with an otherworldly and awe-inspiring presence.

    In many ways, Untitled is the ingenious result of Stingel’s pursuit to push the physical and conceptual limits of painting. Since the late 1980s, a time in which painting had famously been declared dead and minimalist and conceptual narratives prevailed, Stingel has sought to redefine “what painting can be, what it has been, what it is” (Francesco Bonami, quoted in Michelle Grabner, "Rudolf Stingel", Frieze, no. 106, April 2007, online). To this end, he confronted the fundamental aspirations and failures of modernist painting through an expanded notion of painting, one that is distinguished by a simultaneous emphasis on the conceptual process and the material qualities of surface, space, color and image. Dissolving the boundaries between painting, sculpture, architecture, and performance, Stingel first garnered acclaim with his Instructions, 1989, which consisted of instruction manuals for creating silkscreen paintings, and his infamous wall-to-wall carpet installations, the first of which he debuted at the Daniel Newburg Gallery in New York in 1991 and have since been exhibited at important exhibitions such as the Venice Biennial in 1993.

    Like his artistic forebears Lucio Fontana, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Burri and Yves Klein, Stingel essentially exploits the creative potential of destruction to give rise to a three-dimensional work that fundamentally demystifies the artistic process. As curator Chrissie Iles argues, however, Stingel goes one crucial step further: “while artists from Klein and Lucio Fontana to Jean Fautrier, John Latham, Piero Manzoni, [Yoko] Ono, and Rauschenberg, have all destroyed or ruptured the surface of the canvas, Stingel attacks painterly representation by drawing in the entire surrounding space” (Chrissie Iles, “Surface Tension”, in Francesco Bonami, Rudolf Stingel, Chicago, 2007, p. 25). While working in the vein of Klein’s Anthropologies, in which body imprints appeared on the canvas as abstract painterly traces, Stingel’s works are distinct for the way in which they integrate performative action into the painting’s surface in a very literal, material sense. “The performative nature of Stingel’s mark-making makes evident its three-dimensional presence as a symbol of a painting, rather than as a painting itself”, Iles points out, “The pristine smoothness of its everyday yet sumptuous surface has been destroyed, just as the purity of modernist abstract painting was destroyed in the 1960s” (Chrissie Iles, “Surface Tension”, in Francesco Bonami, Rudolf Stingel, Chicago, 2007, p. 24).

    Central to Stingel’s 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. The multi-layered process of creation behind works such as Untitled makes this body of work one of the artist’s most conceptually complex series. The subsumption of the individual to a larger artistic activity – one that extends beyond the individual’s initial encounter with the work – allowed Stingel to examine the act of collaboration both in the making and in the experiencing of an artwork in his Celotex installations. The autonomous works that were generated from these installations thereby essentially undermined the nature of the singular creative act and the romantic attitudes associated with the painterly gesture. By casting, electroplating and gilding these panels to create detailed 1:1 one-off copies, Stingel crucially adds another layer of complexity to his conceptual process: Stingel essentially plays with the century-old tradition of replication – particularly evoking the 19th century electrotyping and the plaster cast replication technique, the latter of which has its origins in Antiquity and continued into the late 19th century. While historically the purpose of plaster casts and electrotypes was to replicate masterpieces deemed precious, Stingel’s modern-day reincarnation of copper casting fundamentally reverses this premise by elevating the banal and the random into timeless opulence.

  • 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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Ο ◆10


electroformed copper, plated nickel and gold, in 4 parts
each 47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. (120 x 120 cm.)
overall 94 1/2 x 94 1/2 in. (240 x 240 cm.)

Executed in 2012.

$5,000,000 - 7,000,000 

Sold for $6,390,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 2017