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

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Its an epic idea of pleasure, a landscape of flowers and bright orange bushes leading you down a long floral hallway to the horizon  almost as if youre asked to willingly walk down the aisle to heaven.
     Shara Hughes


    Featuring American artist Shara Hughes’s signature electric colour palette, dizzying brushwork and shifting perspectives, the passionately cheerful Pleasure House (2017) is a paradisiacal example of Hughes’s internationally celebrated landscape series. The word ‘mindscape’ appropriately describes Hughes’s whimsical, dream-like scenes. Through immersing and detaching herself from the painting i, the artist concerns herself with bringing to life an imaginary and emotionally charged space that makes each piece an intimate and unique experience for both the viewer and herself.



    Detail of the present lot


    Heavenly Delight


    Referencing a myriad of artists that she admires, Hughes juxtaposes these elements are seemingly uncorrelated and mismatched, calling attention to her unique painterly intuition and feminine sensibility. The compositional emphasis of Pleasure House is the over scaled charcoal-coloured tree in the foreground, partially framing the scene. Its trunk becomes the left boarder of our view, while its willowy branch extends from top left to right. Spontaneous, staccato brushstrokes in the foreground suggests an intimate viewpoint that extends up towards the glorious blazing sun. Two rows of golden trees rendered with swirling clouds of butterscotch yellow, honey orange and chestnut brown in free-handed stokes plunge into the depth of the background, leading the viewer’s gaze to into a dynamic, fantastical landscape. In between them lie a green grassland comprised of dense, feathery strokes, and flowers in full bloom, rendered with lively dots of pink and red. The idea of immense pleasure radiates out of the image with life and warmth and is irresistibly inviting to anyone who wishes to immerse into this uplifting space of delight and joy.



    Joan Mitchell, Sunflower, 1969
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    © Estate of Joan Mitchell


    For Hughes personally, the colour yellow marks a special phase in her life. She became spellbound with Joan Mitchel’s 1969 Sunflower after first seeing it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ‘That one changed my life for a long time’, the artist recalled during an interview, ‘… It goes in phases, but it was almost my entire life for like three years. Now that I think about it, I’m going to look again into that work.’ ii Ideas that stand the test of time have the capacity of blossoming into various depths of reality when revisited at different stages of one’s life. For Hughes, Joan Mitchell’s characteristic confidence that come through within the swirling explosion of yellow is one of those far-reaching marks that is embedded in her mind.



    A Room with A View


    Featuring a vertical composition favoured by the artist, the current example acts as a visual indication for the viewer to journey into the depth of the pictorial plane. Interestingly, it makes an evident reference to perspective paintings that are known for rendering a realistic impression of spacial depth, which is rare in Hughes’s oeuvre. The setting of looking from a particular point outward in the composition recalls classic paintings of window scenes that many famous artists across genres had explored over the span of their careers, such as Henri Matisse and David Hockney.



    Lot 12, David Hockney, Painted Landscape (Or Red and Blue Landscape), 1965
    Phillips Hong Kong Evening Sale, 22 June 2022
    Estimate: HKD16,000,000 - 24,000,000


    The compositional approach of this work, in which the canvas serves as window frame for the viewer to look ‘out of’, is very comparable to that favoured by David Hockney, as both artists plays with perspectives that draw parallels to theatrical scenes. In his 1965 Painted Landscape (Or Red and Blue Landscape) (Lot 12), Hockney frames the seascape with drawn curtains and raw canvas space around them. He decreased the impression of depth by employing geometric forms as substitute for figurative representations, and thus bringing the background from the pictorial plane to the viewer. The figure in white facing out at the window paves ways for an experience of differentiating between the foreground and background, the real and the abstract, which in and of itself is multidimensional and profound.


    Both Matisse and Hockney have conducted their masterful explorations with colour and form in their own window scene depictions, the flattened and layered composition of which share conspicuous similarities with Pleasure House. Yet, having another possibility for interaction in mind when creating this piece, Hughes elevated the experience of space through a definite perspective to another level of intimacy and individuality.



    An Intimate Viewing Experience


    Looking through a meandering vertical slot in a painted wooden partition, the view takes you through a forest of sculptural layers towards a vision of a paradisiacal garden.  
     Dodie Kazanjian 


    Pleasure House was the centre piece of the Rhode Island School of Design graduate’s installation at the Redwood Library Athenaeum on Rhode Island in 2017 (July 1 – September 21) — the same year when the work was executed. The inspiration for the installation, as the artist recalls, is ‘the idea of a church and an altarpiece, of walking up to something and having a special experience with it alone.’ iii Intended for individual viewing, the work can be viewed through a meandering vertical slit in a painted wooden partition installed inside the 18th Century octagonal Athenaeum from the exterior. This playful thinly slot only allows one person to peek into a line of the painting that depicts a heavenly garden, placing emphasis on the deeply personal viewing experience that Hughes aims to deliver with her work.


    “[My paintings] start from a place of playfulness. It’s usually about the material and color in the beginning, then they kind of evolve into psychedelic type spaces that almost seem to occupy your mind more than a real space.” 
     Shara Hughes


    The space within and without Hughes’s paintings, in reality, is an arena that the artist prepares for colours, shapes and textures to collide and spark. In the Pleasure House installation, the sculptural elements the resembles design props on a stage, drawing attention to the theatricality of the work itself. The momentum generated by the movement of the golden trees in the work seems to be the stage curtains that are drawing apart, unveiling the story that was hidden prior to this moment and kindling an excitement for the unknown.



    Trusting The Unknown – A Shift in the Creative Process


    If I had decided where the painting was gonna go, or how it would end up before I started the painting, it almost felt like, whats the point of making it? So being more of a painter and being active with the painting in it telling me where its gonna end up more than I control it, is important for me, and thats what keeps me going with the work.
     Shara Hughes


    Beginning in 2014, Hughes’s move from painting dazzling symbolic interiors to whimsical landscapes marks a shift in her creative approach. The artist begins a landscape painting with no preconceived notion and an open mind, pouring, splashing, or dripping acrylics onto the canvas, leaving spontaneous marks, posing as a visual riddle for Hughes to paint her way out [iv]. What lies at the core of this poetically conversational and free-flowing process is the artist’s sense of security whilst facing the unknown: she releases herself from the constraints of maintaining control, allowing the organic development of colour and form to guide her along and become a co-creator of her work.



    The artist talks about her creative process in her studio 


    Collector’s Digest


    In 2022, Shara Hughes’s solo exhibitions include Spotlight: Shara Hughes at FLAG Art Foundation, New York (March 12 – April 16, 2022) and Shara Hughes: Time Lapsed at Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (September 17 – November 10, 2022). Her other recent solo exhibitions were held at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2021-2022), Shara Hughes: On Edge at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2021-2022), Shara Hughes, the artist’s first UK museum exhibition at Garden Museum, London (2021), Shara Hughes at Aspen Museum of Art, Colorado (2021), and Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2021).


    Hughes’ work is in the permanent collections of institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum Denver Art Museum High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and X Museum in Beijing.



    i Shara Hughes, quoted in ‘Shara Hughes Gets Lost in Paint’, In The Studio | ArtDrunk, 20 February 2020, online

    ii  Shara Hughes, quoted in Ian Alteveer, ‘Shara Hughes in Conversation’, Shara Hughes/ Landscape, 20 August 2019, p.24

    iii  Shara Hughes, quoted in Redwood Library & Athenæum Rhode Island, ‘Shara Hughes – Pleasure House’, 2017, online

    iv  Shara Hughes, quoted in Ian Alteveer, ‘Shara Hughes in Conversation’, Shara Hughes/ Landscape, 20 August 2019, p.9

    • Provenance

      Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
      Private Collection, Chicago
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New Port, Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Pleasure House, 1 July - 21 September 2017

    • Artist Biography

      Shara Hughes

      Shara Hughes (b. 1981) earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. 

      The artist is best known for her colorful landscapes which bridge a gap between the real and the imagined, and the beautiful and the chaotic. Working intuitively, the artist does not typically pre-plan her canvases. Rather her process involves giving form and shape to her previously applied brushstrokes and reacting to her last applications of paint and color through more painting. 

      Hughes has participated in numerous group exhibitions, at venues such as FLAG Art Foundation, NY (2023); ICA Miami (2022); De la Cruz Collection (2022); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2021); Dallas Art Museum, Dallas (2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams (2018); and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2015). The artist was also included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Hughes’ work belongs to many prominent museum collections including the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; the Denver Museum of Art, Denver, CO; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Jorge M. Perez Collection, Miami, FL; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA; the M Woods Museum, Beijing, China; the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ; the Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, TX; the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; the Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing, China; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY; among others. Hughes lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

      View More Works


Pleasure House

signed, titled, dated and inscribed '2017 SHARA HUGHES "Pleasure House" NYC' on the reverse; further signed and inscribed 'Shara Hughes Greenpoint Ave' on the stretcher
oil and acrylic on canvas
173 x 152.5 cm. (68 1/8 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$6,542,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022