Rudolf Stingel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Rudolf Stingel: After the Stencil

    To try something new in painting is extremely complicated, yet Stingel has accepted the challenge and created work that both questions the medium of painting and brings it to another dimension of perception. Curator Francesco Bonami elaborates on Stingel's strengths in advance of our London Evening Sale.

  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

  • Catalogue Essay

    One cannot help but revel in the sheer brilliance of Rudolf Stingel’s mesmeric work, Untitled. Only the greatest artists are capable of teasing out such aesthetic elegance from the complexity of their concepts, and Stingel achieves this with unbounded flair. Through seemingly alchemic artistic means the stencilled imagery and shimmering finish harbour acutely nuanced details, resulting in a painting as bold as it is subtle.

    Untitled is a formidable example of Stingel’s series of wallpaper paintings. Galvanised by opulent, gleaming surfaces these works appear as if lifted directly from Marie Antoinette’s ornate bedroom walls at the Palace of Versailles. Indeed, the complex designs that adorn their surfaces are derived from damask patterns of the late Baroque/Rococo period, a time when painting and sculpture became enmeshed in the very architecture that was intended to contain it. The present work likewise looks for validation outside of traditional parameters, taking its ambient setting as well as the historic relationship between formal patterns and abstract art as points of creative departure.

    Produced using a calculated application of stencils, the work nevertheless contains innumerable imperfections that disrupt the implied decorative repetition like tantalising chinks in its highly polished armour. Blemishes and irregularities indicate the artist’s engagement with his medium on a tactual level; Stingel knowingly leaving clues to his modes of intervention whilst concurrently subverting the implied grandeur of the work’s gold-bullion finish. This quasi-mechanised production aligns Untitled with the creative devices employed by preeminent artists of the late 20th Century. Andy Warhol in particular demonstrated comparable methodologies; his purposefully imprecise screen-printing technique corrupted the pure ideals of mass production and the celebrity image, causing tension between the models of perfection and demise that pervaded popular culture. This, perhaps, manifested itself most significantly in his work Round Jackie from 1964 in which the late John F Kennedy’s wife appears to dissolve under a perforated veil of silkscreen ink and gold paint, allegorically mirroring the frayed majestic gilding seen in Untitled.

    The technique used to produce Stingel’s prized effect echoes a set of instructions he produced in 1989 which delineated the method of production for a series of monochromes that were to be exhibited beside it, giving the viewer access to the artist’s concept and means of fabrication. The present work deftly brings the viewer a step further into the fold. Here, their entire environment dissolves into the seductive hues of reflective gold paint, evoking a blurred, idealised reality woven together by strands of fact and fantasy. Confronted by their reflection, the viewer becomes both the work’s witness and subject, suspended in its patterns like a hazy trace of humanity lingering amongst history’s decadent shadows.

    This illusive and paradoxical quality is crucial to the character of Untitled. Its graphic structure proposes a dual analysis; the work is both a representation and literal manifestation of the abstract floral pattern it evokes, ostensibly lampooning the aesthetic of the wall on which it hangs. Untitled therefore cunningly floats between typical categorisations; part abstraction, part figuration, part physical object, it reflects a moment in painting of incredible originality and boundless scope. Where the gap between reality and illusion becomes uncertain, the visual authority of Untitled leaves the viewer without doubt. Here is a painting of superlative virtue and a true masterpiece of contemporary painting.

  • 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.

    View More Works




signed and dated 'Stingel 2007' on the reverse
oil and enamel on linen
211 x 170.5 cm (83 1/8 x 67 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2007.

£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 ‡♠

Sold for £1,805,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2016