Scott Kahn - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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  •  “Creating reaches us and reveals to us who we are. This is why I paint.”  
    — Scott Kahn


    Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Scott Kahn is best known for his striking yet intricate oil paintings, carefully composed to showcase a highly methodical manipulation of light, shadow, and depth. Kahn’s oeuvre is a collection of autobiographical vignettes, encompassing serene landscapes, familiar portraits, and domestic interiors that the artist recalls from his creative reveries. Artfully refracted through the prism of memory, emotion, and experience, Kahn’s work is a harmonious marriage of existing locations and his own phantasmagorical interpretations. His manifestations are delightful and warm in their realistic nature, yet he diverges from the traditional path of naturalistic painting, incorporating subtle elements of the surreal into his work and instilling in it a simmering sense of unease. Kahn’s detailed, dreamlike canvases strike the perfect balance between the homely and the haunting, creating an aesthetic that, while seemingly reminiscent of American Regionalism, is completely unique.



    Snapshots of a Dream


    “I consider my work to be a visual diary, a record of my life.”
    — Scott Kahn


    Kahn’s 2008 painting takes us to a park in Soundview, a neighbourhood in the Bronx, New York. Standing on a small, lush-green field, our line of sight is framed by dense, yellowing foliage, hinting towards a nearing autumnal time. Beyond the hedges and shrubs, our view extends into the salt marshes, partially obscured only by a lone fir tree. Further out, the calm waters glisten in the mellow midday sun, seamlessly blurring with the clear sky as its edges disappear into the horizon. The drifting clouds infuse the otherwise naturalistic scene with a dreamlike sensibility, tinted with ombre hues of mauve and bubblegum pink more typical of a sunset sky. A comfortable solitude pervades the landscape, evoking a wave of tranquillity and peace within the viewer — and yet, the isolated and subtly illusive setting conjures a confusing sense of liminality, leaving us to wonder if we are in a dream.


    Detail of the present lot


    Soundview epitomises Kahn’s ability to transcend the boundaries between the material and the immaterial. Instead of recording the exact physicality, Kahn chooses to focus on depicting the version of it in his memories or daydreams, merging quotidian landscapes with enthralling reveries. Masterfully blurring the lines between imagination and reality, Kahn imbues the selected scene with intense emotion and a personal touch that makes his paintings all the more intimate.


    Poetic Transcendence


    While some have labelled Kahn to be a photorealist, the artist disagrees with this classification, emphasising individual uniqueness over restricting himself to a single category or movement. Although his works could be considered photo-realistic, they are based on sudden bursts of inspiration brought about by recent experiences or feelings instead of pre-existing photographs. Elaborating on his style, Kahn muses: ‘I don’t consider myself a conceptual artist, but I certainly want to express some symbolic and philosophical meaning through my work.’ i Similarly, he cites his dreams as inspirations for his paintings, hoping to achieve a ‘poetic transcendence’ through the use of dreamlike allegories and symbolism; a lingering implication that his canvases portray more than what meets the eye ii.



    A Surrealist Touch


    ‘He’s our Magritte.’ says Harper Levine, Kahn’s 2021 New York dealer iii. Indeed, this is an apt and commonly-made comparison — critics frequently draw a connection between Kahn and René Magritte, who is perhaps best known for his thought-provoking masterpieces, created by combining and transfusing mundane elements into surreal, unsettling imagery. Much like Magritte, Kahn experiments with realism and perception, challenging preconditioned ideas of depth, perspective, and reality. 



    René Magritte, The Human Condition, 1933
    Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    © 2022 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


     Kahn’s vistas are intimate yet otherworldly, bridging the gap between the tangible and fantastical, enticing viewers to contemplate what exists beyond the frame. There is a mysterious allure to the locations that Kahn selects; often too visually indistinct to pinpoint a specific time and place, yet generic enough for us to link to a faraway memory. Kahn’s repertoire is an imaginative and introspective one, constantly exploring and expanding the myriad of possibilities within both the interior and landscape genres.


    Collector’s Digest


    Scott Kahn was born in 1946 in Springfield, Massachusetts. After receiving his BFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967, he went on to obtain an MFA from Rutgers University in 1970, followed by further studies at the Art Students League. There, he was mentored by Theodoros Stamos and met many of the first-generation Abstract Expressionist artists such as Mark Rothko. His refined technique and distinctive repertoire have received international recognition and critical acclaim over the years, earning him a Pollock-Krasner Foundation award in 1986 and 1995, as well as a fellowship at the Edward F. Albee Foundation. His work has also been honoured in numerous major private and public collections, such as that of the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater.


    In July 2021, Almine Rech gallery announced their exclusive representation of Kahn, following their online solo show of his works, One by One: Scott Kahn. Kahn’s most recent solo exhibitions include Scott Kahn with Almine Rech Paris Matignon (2021), and an ongoing exhibition with Almine Rech New York, The Walled City (3 May - 14 June 2022). Following an endorsement from the late Matthew Wong in 2018, collector interest in Kahn’s work has rapidly increased, and this demand shows no signs of slowing.


    In 2021, Kahn set his personal auction record with Phillips Hong Kong, selling his 2002 piece Cadman Plaza for HK$7,510,000. This also marked his auction debut in Asia.



    Scott Kahn, Cadman Plaza, 2002
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong, 30 November 2021, for HK$7,510,000 (Premium)


    Scott Kahn, quoted in ‘Interviews we love: Scott Kahn’, RDN Arts, 2 June 2021, online

    ii ibid.

    iii Katya Kazakina, ‘How Septuagenarian Artist Scott Kahn Went From Living in His Cousin’s Attic to Selling Out Solo Shows in Just Three Years’, Artnet, 3 May 2022, online

    • Provenance

      François Ghebaly, Los Angeles
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Scott Kahn

      Scott Kahn (b. 1946) is an American painter. He received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from Rutgers University. He is now best known for the explosion of his own market on the international stage late in his career and over the last five years. His subject matter reflects the people and places of America, primarily influenced by the bucolic landscapes and daily life of the northeast, USA.

      Kahn has been a recipient of awards from the Pollock Krasner Foundation and a residency at the Edward Albee Foundation in Montauk. His work is included in major corporations and two museums in China, including the Long Museum, and the ICA Miami in Florida. His work is in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater.

      View More Works



signed and dated 'Scott Kahn '08' lower right; further signed, titled, inscribed and dated '"SOUND VIEW" KAHN 2008 © 2008 by Scott Kahn all rights reserved' on the overlap
oil on linen
76.3 x 86.4 cm. (30 x 34 in.)
Painted in 2008.

Full Cataloguing

HK$900,000 - 1,400,000 

Sold for HK$4,032,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022