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

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  • Video

    Sherrie Levine, 'Caribou Skull', Lot 34

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

  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Alcoitão-Cascais, Ellipse Foundation Contemporary Art Collection, Listen Darling... The World is Yours, October 2008 - August 2009 (another example exhibited)
    London, Whitechapel Gallery, Keeping it Real: An Exhibition in Four Acts from the D. Daskalopoulos Collection (Act 1: The Corporeal), June 2010 - May 2011 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    2008 Biennial Exhibition, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2008, p. 169 (another example illustrated)
    Sherrie Levine: MAYHEM, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 33 (another example mentioned)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Simultaneously delicate and imposing, graceful and arresting, Caribou Skull, 2006, falls under the umbrella of two of Sherrie Levine’s most repeated formal or thematic iterations: the cast bronze, forming part of a wider body of sculptural work, and the practice of appropriation, running through all of her represented subjects. Rising to prominence in the late 1970s alongside Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger as a foremost figure of the Pictures Generation, Levine’s work probes questions of originality and authorship, employing media such as photography, drawing and sculpture to capture, or indeed reproduce, such seminal icons as Walker Evans’ psychologically charged photographs, Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits, and Marcel Duchamp’s irreverent urinal. With these works, Levine delivers her own perspective on culturally imposing examples of the art historical canon, deriving from a fascination she has with a singular aspect of the original works she chooses – their playfulness, their solemnity, the emotional charge carried by their subject matter. ‘I’m interested in sameness’, she wrote. ‘What it means for two things to be identical, or not. [At the same time] I like to think my work has some sort of aura of originality’ (Sherrie Levine, quoted in ‘The Anxiety of Influence – Head On’, Bernard Burgi, Sherrie Levine, Zurich, 1991, p. 18).

    Forging new meaning and content through deconstructing our assumed notions of perception, Caribou Skull fuses a well-known animalistic symbol – pervasive in popular culture and art history alike – with contemporary notions of fetishised objecthood and commodification. One of Sherrie Levine’s most iconic sculptural iterations, the sculpted caribou – with his elongated skull and his slim, graceful features – appropriates Georgia O’Keeffe’s deer skulls, which were, within her oeuvre, plunged in surreal flurries of flora and fauna. As such, the gilded cast touches on the realm of nature, looking into O’Keeffe’s love for the stark landscape and open skies of New Mexico. Created seven decades prior to the present work, O’Keeffe’s paintings of animal skulls emerged at a time when artists and writers were attempting to encapsulate the notion of ‘the Great American thing’. O’Keefe’s symbolisation of her country was expressed through the vividly evocative backgrounds of her images, delineating the contours of the desert’s mountains, or boasting iconographic allusions to the image of Jesus Christ on the cross.

    Whilst invoking these contexts that made the original skull a quintissentially American icon, Caribou Skull additionally draws from Levine’s own experience of the American Southwest – a place that she familiarised herself with as she began to divide her time between New York and Santa Fe in 1997. There, Levine was prompted to reflect on her worldly surroundings, declaring: ‘I sometimes paraphrase Lawrence Weiner on this; he said that he wanted to make art that throws you back on the physical world, that makes you think about your relationship to the physical world. I think that's a wonderful way to think about artmaking’ (Sherrie Levine in conversation with Constance Lewallen, 'Sherrie Levine', Journal of Contemporary Art, 1993, reproduced online). In 2007, in honour of the temporally dislocated bond that connects O’Keeffe and Levine’s work, the latter was bestowed a solo exhibition at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, where a number of her skull works were displayed. A captivating example from Levine’s body of animal casts, Caribou Skull carries the lyrical elegance of O’Keeffe’s paintings, whilst boasting a contemporary voice that is distinctly her own.

    Echoing Roland Barthes’ ‘Death of the Author’, and Sigmund Freud’s belief that ‘the finding of an object is in fact a refinding of it’, Levine’s Caribou Skull exalts familiarity and magnificence, prodigiously merging notions of originality and citation (Sigmund Freud, ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’, 1905). Exporting O’Keeffe’s pictorial iterations of weathered cows, deer, antelopes or the like, her caribou becomes the continuation of her predecessor’s narrative, pursuing O’Keeffe’s interest in the painterly encapsulation of America whilst adding to it the contemporary notion of craze consumership. In other words, Caribou Skull is tenderness cast with a brazen Midas touch.

Ο ◆34

Caribou Skull

cast bronze
137.2 x 80 x 63.5 cm (54 x 31 1/2 x 25 in.)
Executed in 2006, this work is number 3 from an edition of 12 plus 3 artist's proofs.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £237,500

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