Sam Taylor-Johnson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, February 13, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Sam Taylor-Wood, 'Pietà, Lot 150

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, 14 February

  • Provenance

    White Cube, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Sam Taylor-Wood: The Passion, 21 September - 2 November 2002 (another example exhibited)
    London, White Cube, Sam Taylor-Johnson: Mute, 23 November 2001 - 12 January 2002 (another example exhibited)
    Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Sam Taylor-Wood, 2 August - 5 October 2008 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Sam Taylor-Wood, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2002, n.p. (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    With profound humanity and an essential cinematic rendering, Pietà presents the artist Sam Taylor-Johnson cradling the Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr. in her lap with splayed legs and open arms. Referring to Michelangelo’s Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica – an iconic sculpture portraying the Madonna revealing the body of a supine Christ following Crucifixion – this scene alludes to essential themes of life and death, as well as the relationship between a mother and her son. Notably, it was created at a time when Taylor-Johnson was battling cancer, and Robert Downey Jr. was recovering from addiction issues. The artist’s portrayal of human suffering is thus heightened by the hard-hitting reality of their respective health states; and the physical support Taylor-Johnson provides to Downey takes on an added layer of symbolism, truly embodying the mutual sense of care and benevolence they shared for one another. In the film, there is no scant movement and no sound, aside from Robert Downey Jr.’s heavy breathing. The viewer is thus left with a quasi-photographic shot, which only so slightly moves upon careful and sustained inspection. Filmed for just under two minutes – the time that Taylor-Johnson could hold Downey’s weight over her legs and open arms – the work exudes a powerful sense of gravitas and spirituality, that brings the viewer back to Michelangelo’s numinous vision.

The Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More



film/DVD, duration: 1 minute 57 seconds
installation dimensions variable
Executed in 2001, this work is number 2 from an edition of 3 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, published by White Cube, London.

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £22,500

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 February 2020