Scott Kahn - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “Creating reaches us and reveals to us who we are. This is why I paint.” 
    — Scott Kahn 

    Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1946, American painter Scott Kahn is celebrated for his strikingly atmospheric landscapes rendered through the prism of memory, experience, and emotion. A master of his craft, he approaches his subject matter with a remarkable dedication to detail, accentuating each cloud in the sky and ripple on the water so meticulously, individual brushstrokes build up into luxurious textures that add a sensuous lucidity to his otherworldly realms. As the first work by the artist to be offered at auction in Asia, shortly following the announcement of his new representation by the esteemed Almine Rech gallery earlier this year, Cadman Plaza is a prime example of the artist’s unique, expressive language.


    Like Hazy Snapshots from a Dream 



    Painted in 2002, Cadman Plaza transports viewers to Brooklyn, New York, into a tall high-rise building overlooking Cadman Plaza Park. Meandering around the left side of the lush-green, wooded grounds is the exit ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, whereas peering to the right brings us out to New York Harbour, where the Statue of Liberty proudly stands beneath a horizon line of fluffy white clouds bathed in sunshine. Diluting the moody, dark sky that hangs low over the city, the warm light radiates through the windows of our room, casting afternoon shadows on the checkered linoleum tile floors.


    The wispy waves and billowing clouds conjure a sense of eternal movement, further enhanced by the dense, rustling leaves. And yet, the roads are bare and the harbour is empty, leaving us to wonder if we are alone in this dreamlike setting, gazing out over a city entirely our own.




    Vincent van Gogh, The Olive Trees, 1889
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York



    Citing influences as varied as Andrew Wyeth, Henri Matisse, Lucien Freud, Pierre Bonnard and John Singer Sargent – whilst Kahn’s paintings can be viewed as an amalgamation of art historical references, he extends the genre of landscape painting through a lens entirely his own. There is a poetic sensibility imbued in his images, however, that specifically recalls Vincent van Gogh’s scenic reveries, which too, are executed with distinctly singular brushstrokes. When speaking of this inspiration, Kahn notes: ‘Every of his painting makes me feel like my soul has been stabbed. It’s so moving and so compelling. When you see one of his paintings, it’s like there is no distance between your soul and the artist’s soul. It’s that straightforward and that direct.’ i


    The curving road in Cadman Plaza further brings to mind the work of contemporary British artist David Hockney, whom too, depicts vast, empty landscapes separated by winding tarmac. But whereas Hockney introduces a touch of the surreal through his vivid colour palette, indulging in highly saturated and acidic tones, the surrealistic tinge that permeates throughout Kahn’s oeuvre comes from working from memory, as reality and fantasy warp like ‘hazy snapshots extracted from a dream’. ii




    David Hockney, Nichols Canyon, 1980
    Sold by Phillips New York on 7 December 2020 for US$ 41,067,500
    © David Hockney



    Kahn seamlessly blends exterior and interior worlds through the inclusion of a window in the present work. A symbolic motif famously used throughout art history by artists such as Renée Magritte to explore notions of seeing, the transparent panes of glass frame the viewer’s vantage point and offer a metaphorical border between the intimate and public, tangible and fantastical, and conscious and unconscious.


    A more contemporary connection can be made to Chinese artist Liu Ye, who also employs the motif in his paintings to bridge the realistic world with spiritual or imagined realms. Beyond the aesthetics of architectural framing, both Kahn and Liu Ye use windows to represent the passing of time through the rhombus-shaped reflections of light cast into their interior scenes. Unlike Liu Ye’s inclusion of protagonists, however, Kahn’s depictions of familiar yet ambiguous vistas invite introspective contemplation as—like peering through a portal—it is from the viewer’s focal point that we take in the view.




    Left: Renée Magritte, The Human Condition, 1933
    Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    © 2021 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Liu Ye, The Second Story, 1995
    Sold at Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction on 7 June 2021 for HK$13,076,000
    © Liu Ye 



    Scott Kahn in Conversation



    In June 2021, Scott Kahn spoke with RDN Arts about how his magical, painterly universes search for the connections at the base of art and life, always inextricably linked to each other.


    RDN Arts: The allegorical and symbolic charge in your works is notable. Can you explain this choice and what is, according to you, the intersection of visual art and poetry?


    Scott Kahn: I had a particular interest in dreams, yin-yang symbol symbolism – and I guess I’m still painting in this kind of symbolic dreamlike way. You know, to me, it’s an elevated way to present my experience, and most importantly, it’s just my nature, and I can’t fight my nature. You might say it’s a subtext. It’s the way it’s reported to the viewer that suggests something beyond what is actually being seen. If I’m really successful, the painting achieves some poetic transcendence.


    RDN: You said to consider your work to be a visual diary of your life. How do you choose which images to represent? What is the process that leads you to a choice in the representations you carry into your art?


    SK: I wait for inspiration to pick up the brush and put it on canvas. It’s a little magical and mysterious. I often have to wait for that inspiration, that moment. The impulse that gets me to the canvas generally comes from something very recent in my life. Something I’ve seen, maybe even frequently. It could be a feeling. I don’t consider myself a conceptual artist, but I certainly want to express some symbolic and philosophical meaning through my work.


    Read the rest of the interview here.


    Collector’s Digest


    Kahn obtained a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University in 1970, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. His distinctive oeuvre has received significant international recognition and critical acclaim throughout his career, including being the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation award in 1986 and 1995, and a fellowship at the Edward F. Albee Foundation.  


    Kahn's most recent solo exhibitons include Afternoon of a Faun at Harper’s Books in New York (18 February – 26 March 2021), Diary at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in New York (19 May – 23 June 2019), and Scott Kahn: Diary, Continued at Harper’s Books in New York (15 June – 11 July 2019).


    In July 2021, the Almine Rech announced their exclusive representation of Kahn, following on from their presentation of his works in One by One: Scott Kahn, which ran from 25 June – 11 July 2021.



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

    ii Harper’s Books, ‘Scott Kahn: Diary, Continued’ Press Release, New York, 15 June – 11 July 2019, online

    • Provenance

      Harper's, USA
      Private Collection
      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


Cadman Plaza

signed and dated 'Scott Kahn '02' lower right; further signed, titled, inscribed and dated '"CADMAN PLAZA" KAHN 2002 © 2002 by Scott Kahn all rights reserved' on the overlap
oil on linen
157.5 x 193 cm. (62 x 75 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2002.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for HK$7,510,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021