Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, March 7, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘His art asks what are paintings, who makes them, and how?’ Roberta Smith, ‘The Threads That Tie a Show Together’, New York Times, 20 August 2013.

    Untitled, 1997, and the previous lot Untitled, 1989, are pre-eminent examples of Rudolf Stingel’s diverse oeuvre, providing a masterly demonstration of the painter’s ground-breaking elaboration of style alongside the universal themes of mortality, authorship and materiality which he has confronted throughout his career. Together they offer a revelatory insight into the artist’s technical and conceptual techniques, through which he challenges established conventions and raises broader existential questions about the nature and limits of creativity.

    These paintings create starkly alternate visual landscapes through Stingel’s manipulation of colour, texture and abstraction. Untitled, 1989, conjures an otherworldly atmosphere with hints of moonlight, underscored by the shimmering patterns running across the canvas. He blends silver, grey and purple hues, creating a subtle study in colour which guides the viewer’s eye across every aspect of the surface and invites contemplation from different angles. A similarly thought-provoking aura emerges from Untitled, 1997, in which we are confronted with playful splashes of paint and strong contrasts of black and purple. Inviting comparison to Jackson Pollock and his renowned drip technique, Untitled, 1997, bursts with energy and evokes a range of natural phenomena from lightning to volcanic eruptions. This is typical of Stingel’s creative output in the 1990s as he began to move away from his monochromatic works towards bold explorations of colour and innovative industrial media. The transition we witness in these pieces foreshadows the artist’s avant-garde experiments with carpet, Celotex, and Styrofoam in the late 1990s and early 2000s, expanding upon the Duchampian concept of the readymade and the ethos of Arte Povera by reconfiguring our understanding of material functionality.

    In spite of superficial differences Untitled, 1989, and Untitled, 1997, share a common thematic vocabulary and highlight the continuity of Stingel’s preoccupations throughout his diverse and prolific career. 1989 was a crucial year in the development of both Stingel’s art and his critical recognition. Increasingly celebrated for his monochromatic canvases, he chose to publish Instructions, an ironic guide to creating paintings in the style of his abstract silver series as illustrated by Untitled, 1989. Stingel radically overturned the traditional relationship between artist and audience, a move which Amanda Coulson theorised ‘immediately encapsulates the artist’s tongue-in-cheek attitude toward his work, dissociating himself from the mythology of the artist–genius and assimilating the viewer into his theoretical and practical approach.’ (Amanda Coulson, Rudolf Stingel: Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Frieze Magazine, Issue 86, October 2004). These works therefore demonstrate Stingel’s concern with subverting hierarchies and unpacking the mystique of the creator, which in turn serves to elevate them far beyond their method of manufacture into the canon of art history.

    The subtle space these paintings inhabit between abstraction and figuration amounts to a celebration of transience, foregrounding traces of the creative process which encourage us to reconstruct and relive the almost tangible moment of conception. ‘Stingel creates a transitive way to recede from abstraction into the subject and to push the subject into a different kind of time.’ (Francesco Bonami, ed., Paintings of Paintings for Paintings - The Kairology and Kronology of Rudolf Stingel in Rudolf Stingel, London, 2007, pp. 13-14). Nowhere is this reflected more coherently than in the vast grey expanses of Untitled, 1989, with their simultaneous evocation of the artist’s mark and emptiness in the tradition of the composer John Cage. This embrace of supposedly paradoxical states is furthered in the imagery of Untitled, 1997, in which destruction and invention collide. Stingel does not perceive these two forces as mutually exclusive and operates outside of their restrictive parameters, a recurrent theme which runs throughout his boundary-dissolving oeuvre.

    Untitled, 1989, and Untitled, 1997, are a testament to the indisputable beauty which underpins Rudolf Stingel’s entire body of work across a wide range of media, from canvas to carpets. They give us a unique window into his creative techniques and existential preoccupations, illustrating the importance of colour, abstraction, recollection and above all, redefining the relationship between artist and viewer.

  • 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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acrylic on canvas
120 x 80.5 cm (47 1/4 x 31 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1997.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2017 5pm GMT