Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled, 2015, immerses the viewer into a vast, seemingly infinite, pictorial field. Daubs of thick dark grey and burgundy enamel coalesce across the metallic grey canvases into spectral impressions of an ornamental carpet, giving the sensation of standing within a grand hall receding into distance. As with Stingel’s greatest works, Untitled presents a vision of subtle grandeur that rewards prolonged looking.


    The first large-scale triptych to come to auction–the few other triptychs are housed in such esteemed collections as the Pinault Collection–this work takes a singular place within Stingel’s oeuvre. One of only eight installations Stingel conceived for his monumental Part I-VIII exhibition held between 2015-2016 at Gagosian New York, Untitled  was the sole work on view in the show’s fourth iteration. While the specific reference points for his acclaimed carpet paintings tend to be more oblique, this work specifically connects to Stingel’s famous Plan B carpet installation at New York City’s Grand Central Station in 2004. At the time, it represented the artist’s first major public project in the United States, with its counterpart concurrently shown at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.


    Rudolf Stingel, Plan B, Grand Central Terminal installation. Image: Courtesy of Art Production Fund.

    For Plan B, Stingel realized a wall-to-wall dusty pink and blue floral carpet installation for the station’s Vanderbilt Hall waiting room–notably using a type of customized commercial carpet one would find in an upscale hotel or casino. Rather than simply decor, Stingel viewed the richly patterned textile as an enormous painting. In this assertion, Stingel not only highlighted the potential of seemingly ordinary materials and re-contextualized the hall’s architecture, but also expanded the notion of what painting can be. As he insisted, “My carpets are paintings. Not carpets.”i


    Whereas Stingel typically covers his canvases with all-over carpeting or wallpaper patterns, Untitled sees him counter the flatness of the picture plane with an allusion to depth. The patten seemingly follows linear perspective, but instead of a reaching a perceptible vanishing point it dissolves into invisibility.  The triptych further recalls Renaissance tripartite painting structures and their compositional orientations that highlight realistic depth and recession in space. 


    Piermatteo Lauro de' Manfredi da Amelia (c.1450-1503/8) / Italian, The Anunciation. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Image: © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum / Bridgeman Images.

    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”.ii 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. The delicate interplay of texture, surface and pattern within the resulting silver monochrome paintings helped foreground a wider project to explore the boundaries and processes that underpin the very act of painting itself. 


    With Untitled, Stingel returns to the one of his most enduring themes originating with to his first solo show, at Daniel Newburg Gallery in 1991. Leaving the walls of the SoHo gallery completely bare, he covered the floor with fluorescent orange carpet. At the 1993 Venice Biennale, he conversely glued the carpet to the wall with a sly nod to Color Field painting, and at his 2013-14 Palazzo Grassi exhibition, he famously filled the entire space with an oriental carpet. In the words of the curator Francesco Bonami, “By disrupting painting’s assumptions of material, process, and placement, Stingel not only bursts open the conventions of painting, but creates unique ways of thinking about the medium and its reception.”iii

    “It’s aggressive, it’s against the system, it’s against the usual way of doing a painting.”–Rudolf Stingel 

    It is striking that Stingel returned to his Grand Central installation, Plan B, more than a decade later with Untitled. In silver monochrome, the work depicts an expanse of floral carpet derived from images of his Plan B carpet installation. Its conception introduces another conceptual layer that distinguishes this work within Stingel’s larger corpus of carpet paintings. For his exhibition at Gagosian, New York, Stingel devised of a monumental exhibition held as a series of eight installations over the span of one year, from October 2015 to December 16. Exemplifying the breadth of Stingel’s conceptual practice—almost akin to a retrospective—the installations including presented, among others, his iconic carpet and wallpaper pattern paintings, silver cast Celotex panels, a wall-to-wall carpet installation as well as photorealistic portraits of friends and artists such as Franz West or Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Amongst these works Untitled  stands alone, itself a full chapter of Stingel’s serial presentation. 



    i Rudolf Stingel in Roberta Smith, “The Threads That Tie a Show Together,” The New York Times, August 20, 2013, online.

    ii Francesco Bonami quoted in Michelle Grabner, "Rudolf Stingel," Frieze, no. 106, April 2007, online.

    iii Francesco Bonami, ed., Rudolf Stingel, New Haven, 2007, p. 10. 

    • Provenance

      Gagosian, New York
      Private Collection, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Gagosian, Rudolf Stingel: Part IV, May 17–July 11, 2016

    • Literature

      Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Riehen and Berlin, 2019, pp. 268–269 (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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signed, consecutively inscribed and dated "Stingel 2015 [1-3]/3" on the reverse of each part
oil and enamel on canvas, in 3 parts
each 83 x 67 in. (210.8 x 170.2 cm)
installation dimensions 83 x 205 in. (210.8 x 520.7 cm)

Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

$900,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $723,900

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig 
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023