Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Phillips

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    "The subject is not the artist himself, but the bipolar state of the subject of painting. To look at these self-portraits as a departure from Stingel’s earlier work is a mistake. This new work is one of the many parallel paths of his continuation of the autobiography of painting."
    —Francesco Bonami



    Painted in 2007, Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled belongs to his highly acclaimed series of photorealistic self-portraits that reflect the artist’s explorations on the possibilities of painting. From reinventing floors and walls as picture planes, to recasting antiquated wallpaper as painted surfaces, Stingel’s investigations and self-reflexive practice evolved in 2005, when he began to incorporate photorealistic portraiture into his practice. Often using his own likeness, Stingel positions these portraits at the interstices of painting and photography, moving between original and reproduction, subject and creator, reality and illusion. Based on a photograph taken around the time of the artist’s 50th birthday, Untitled comprises a significant chapter in a narrative autobiography of existential disquiet.



    Gerhard Richter, Selbstportrait (Self-Portrait), 1996. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image and Artwork: © 2021 Gerhard Richter (0220)

    Gerhard Richter, Selbstportrait (Self-Portrait), 1996. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image and Artwork: © 2021 Gerhard Richter (0220)



    Stingel’s photo-based portraiture has occupied an important place in his conceptually loaded painterly practice since its beginnings. Conceived at the height of the artist’s career, the series comprises paintings based on various photographs by Sam Samore and Roland Bolego that portray Stingel both brooding over and celebrating his half-century birthday in a nondescript luxury hotel room. Offering a poignant vignette of the ambivalent ruminations that often accompany this significant milestone of life, the present work depicts the artist looking directly at the camera with his hand resting on his cheek. Despite his sharp attire embodying sophistication and worldly accomplishment, his heavy eyes and deep gaze exude a sense of melancholy, reflection, and realization as he crosses the threshold of midlife, perhaps staring into a past of memories or a future inching closer to mortality.




    Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2005-2006. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Artwork: © Rudolf Stingel. Courtesy the Artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

    Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2005-2006. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Artwork: © Rudolf Stingel. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York



    In Untitled, Stingel’s transposition of the photograph onto the canvas is at once faithful and transformative. The granularity of the photographic still is transposed under the artist’s painterly hand through dabs of impasto in varying grayscale tones. He renders the distinguished tussles of his silvery hair and his salt-and-pepper beard through touches of white pigment, which he also employs with remarkable veracity to denote light against shadow in every detail, including his glistening eyes and the sparkling ring. Here, the artist offers us a seemingly reliable glimpse of the photograph, whilst intervening our perceptual grasp with the notable painterly qualities of the composition that alert to its artificiality—leaving the viewer’s encounter of the original image just out of reach in a painterly haze.




    Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Skull, 1978.

    Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Skull, 1978. Artwork: © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by ARS, NY



    "[Stingel] is equally part of a tradition of European... painters who have continued to explore the possibilities of painting in a way that is neither nostalgic nor reactionary. Stingel adds to this tradition in that all of his work speaks about the passage of time, moving from the photographic to the cinematic."
    —Gary Carrion Murayari



    Stingel’s mediation establishes a visual and conceptual distance between the viewer and his source image, a fundamental element of his practice. In addition to detaching the work from its source, this separation is further aggravated by the artist’s use of a borrowed, rather than self-taken, photograph for the painting, thereby destabilizing the authenticity of authorship that ostensibly characterizes self-portraiture. “The element of painting that Stingel keeps most estranged from the viewer is the presence and the value of the artist as a unique individual...Stingel only allows his own [labor] into the work in an indexical manner,” Gary Carrion-Murayari articulated. “[His] use of photography as the basis for these works removes the possibility of insight into the artist’s psyche.”i




    Film still of Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, 1963

    Film still of Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, 1963



    The authorial elusiveness of Stingel’s practice as demonstrated in Untitled further rises to the surface in relation to autobiography. Despite its seemingly autobiographical presentation, the scene in the original photograph itself is entirely staged. The artist’s heavy-handed depiction of midlife contemplation and angst is a kind of histrionic enactment as Stingel—like Federico Fellini in his seminal film 8 ½—depicts himself in the oxymoron of an invented autobiography, offering the viewer with an imagined experience of reality. Playing himself in the story of his life, Stingel creates a “fictional documentary,” in Francesco Bonami’s words, that inhabits the liminal spaces between the real, the true, and the fictional.ii


    i Gary Carrion-Murayari, “Untitled,” in Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2007, p. 112.
    ii Francesco Bonami, “Paintings of Painting for Paintings: The Kairology and Kronology of Rudolf Stingel,” The Painting Factory, May 26, 2016.

    • Provenance

      The artist
      Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2015)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Riehen, Fondation Beyeler, Rudolf Stingel, May 26 - October 6, 2019, p. 7 (illustrated)

    • 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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Property from a European Collection



signed and dated "Stingel 2007" on the reverse
oil on linen
15 x 20 1/2 in. (38.1 x 52.1 cm)
Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $2,692,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021