Sigmar Polke - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 18, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Vienna (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection (acquired from the above)
    Sotheby's, London, October 14, 2011, lot 159
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Sigmar Polke’s ability to jump from figuration to abstraction, and everything in between, has defined him as a modern master of post-war painting. His shifting picture planes generate a mesh of layered pigments, which is on display in Untitled. The surface of this work remains awash with acrylic paint and Polke’s signature medium, dispersion paint, that interrelates with other colorants in both active and passive ways. His art brings forth a sense of compositional uncertainty that activates the painting surface: at any moment, the whole pigmented structure might slip off the page. Polke experiments with diverse styles of abstraction within single works, from the geometric gridding of his rasterbilds to the expressive and incandescent puddles of inky washes, Polke dives into the deepest corners of investigational mark-making.

    From the 1960s, his radical approach to painting aimed to confront the consumerist culture that materialized in post-war Germany. Riveted by the printing mechanisms utilized by mass-marketing advertisements, Polke sought to explore a process that destabilized this commercial imagery, questioning its validity and the intended purpose of coercive mass media communication. His haunting and atmospheric washes of paint run down the surface of Untitled, staining and smudging the raster-dots below. The traces of Polke’s approach to artistic process is revealed in the shifting surface of the work itself, which stands as a recorded history of its own transformational status. Untitled seems to be continuously mutating, as though the viewer is witnessing a very charged and fluid evolution. Polke plays with imagery and allows a kind of spontaneity in his production, as Tacita Dean explains, "He intuited which gesture was the right one and acted accordingly. Such knowledge is subcutaneous and should never be brought into the conscious realm but has to stay just beneath its surface. Not many artists can keep it there. Polke relied on such mechanisms as chance and contingency, and I suspect he worked quickly and without pause for unnecessary thought."(Tacita Dean, “Higher Beings Send Peas,” Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 167) Fluctuating between the temporal and the perpetual, Untitled represents a shifting portal of complex, layered and abstract imagery, which has the ability to engage the beholder at every level. The visual instability and richness of Untitled, with its myriad of hues, processes and patterns, as Polke claimed, has the ability to connect “everything to everything, establishing an endless rush of association until they turn against one another.”



signed and dated "Sigmar Polke 1999" lower left
acrylic and dispersion on paper
77 3/8 x 58 1/4 in. (196.5 x 148 cm.)
Executed in 1999.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $754,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2017