Sanya Kantarovsky - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Sanya Kantarovsky, 'Lavender Arrest', Lot 4

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Marc Foxx, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Marc Foxx, Sanya Kantarovsky: Gushers, 9 January - 7 February 2015

  • Literature

    Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey, ed., Sanya Kantarovsky, No Joke, London, 2016, p. 185 (illustrated, p. 121, and detail illustrated, p. 185)

  • Catalogue Essay

    With a vast expanse of lavender paint revealing passages of brick wall, the central figure in Sanya Kantarovsky’s Lavender Arrest, 2015, provides a clear, figurative point of focus for the viewer’s gaze, in a composition otherwise dominated by elusive, fantastical elements. The artist, dubbed by critics as a prodigious storyteller, has become known for his exquisite use of sardonic surrealism and dark humour, tinged with an irrepressible colourist flair. His compositions are reminiscent of great tales imagined by such eminent Eastern European authors as Mikhail Bulgakov and Franz Kafka, while simultaneously calling to mind Paul Gauguin’s unmodulated hues, generously distributed across the surfaces of his works. Having described his painterly process as being frequently interrupted by pauses to read, talk, or reflect, it is unsurprising that Kantarovsky’s canvases exude the unknowable visions of a daydream, at once mightily evocative and distinctly ethereal. Lavender Arrest, a monumental painting depicting the physical and seemingly psychological unease of a guard-seized man, brims with paradoxical notions of frivolity and anguish, encapsulating the multifaceted visual universe that Kantarovsky strives to achieve.

    Created on the heels of Kantarovsky’s breakthrough exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York, in 2014, Lavender Arrest epitomises the artist’s unwavering interest in the formal construction of fantasised narratives. In the artist’s own words, his perplexing paintings are the result of highly curated imaginings, spanning imagery from film, illustration and literature. His poignantly enigmatic canvases capture human characters portrayed in liminal realms, in narratives almost always held in tension between reality and fantasy, the farcical and the ominous. ‘I’m searching, cycling through things that are perpetually fascinating and important to me in painting, literature, film’, he says. ‘I’m this weird arbiter, putting what’s around me into these physical things’ (Sanya Kantarovsky, quoted in Dodie Kazanjian, ‘The Darkly Comic Art of Sanya Kantarovsky’, Vogue, 15 May 2019, online). Toying with surrealism and abstraction, Kantarovsky’s characteristically long-limbed characters reflect ‘a moment that never existed but that you feel you’ve seen before’ (Sanya Kantarovsky, quoted in Dodie Kazanjian, ‘The Darkly Comic Art of Sanya Kantarovsky’, Vogue, 15 May 2019, online). In Lavender Arrest, the figure being dragged down by a guard – dressed with idiosyncratic round glasses and a bright-red turtleneck – feels ‘original yet borrowed from elsewhere’, like an altered Waldo catapulted to painterly realms (Nicholas Heskes, ‘Sanya Kantarovsky: On Them’, The Brooklyn Rail, June 2019, online).

    Garnering increased critical and institutional attention in recent years, Kantarovsky was bestowed his first solo museum show in 2018, at the Kunsthalle Basel. Elena Filipovic, director of the legendary Swiss institution, gave Kantarovsky carte blanche to make work for the institution’s iconic 19th-century exhibition space, celebrating Kantarovsky’s unflinching pictorial drive following the show’s inauguration. ‘He believes more in the utter necessity of painting than nearly anyone I’ve ever met’, she remarked. ‘And in our accelerated, post-digital moment, it was incredibly intriguing to think about what he would do, working for a little more than one year, to make his largest show to date’ (Elena Filipovic, quoted in Dodie Kazanjian, ‘The Darkly Comic Art of Sanya Kantarovsky’, Vogue, 15 May 2019, online). Soaring to arresting heights and boasting the magnificence of its titular hue, Lavender Arrest is an exceptional example of Kantarovsky’s poetic practice, extracting the compelling details of a story never to be told.

Property of an Important Californian Collector


Lavender Arrest

oil, pastel, watercolour and oilstick on canvas
190.5 x 139.7 cm (75 x 55 in.)
Executed in 2015.

£30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for £150,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019