Sigmar Polke - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mary Boone Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Christie's, New York, November 13, 1998, lot 192
    Julien J. Studley, New York
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Regarded as the consummate Postmodern painter, Sigmar Polke created an oeuvre that is wildly diverse in its exploration of techniques and materials, one that culminated with a superlative group of late works including the ethereal Untitled (Silver Painting) of 1990.

    Symbolic of the artist’s return to the photographic chemistry of his darkroom experiments of the late 1960s and 1970s, this work demonstrates the artist’s ingenious implementation of silver sulfate, an ingredient typical of traditional analog photography. Polke exploited the light-sensitivity of this material, cultivating its characteristic staining and darkening to create a shimmering gossamer composition of varied textures.

    Evoking the presence of a living being, the primal organic traces of the artist’s finger painting contrasts with the manipulated chemical processes borrowed from photography. Tempering the erratic movements of the texturized surface, the neutral bone and ecru tones in addition to the sense of light and air created by the chemical reactions softens and balances the dynamism of the work.

    Comparing Untitled (Silver Painting) to Yves Klein’s Untitled (fire-color painting) of 1962, both works speak to the artists’ fascination with alchemical science as products of arduous periods of experimentation with unpredictable and even toxic materials. Polke and Klein were intensely interested in the transformative potential of different materials as a means of depicting the chaotic conflagration of life-giving and life-taking energetic forces. Klein famously used an asbestos-coated board to control the areas of the composition that would capture the traces of the flame and sections that would portray resistance to the burning effect before spraying and blowing blue and bright pink pigment onto the golden surface. In the vein of Klein’s fire paintings, Untitled (Silver Painting) seizes the volatility of silver sulfate mixed with oil and resin on canvas, exploring the immediate optical effects of such materials as well as their mutability over time. This work showcases the artist’s wit, uncanny understanding of materials, and bold openness to chance and experimentation, qualities that have earned him the status as one of the most influential artists of the Post-War period.


Untitled (Silver Painting)

signed and dated "S.POLKE 90" on the overlap; signed with the artist's initials and dated "S.P. 90" on the stretcher
oil, silver sulfate and resin on canvas
78 7/8 x 74 1/2 in. (200.3 x 189.2 cm.)
Executed in 1990.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $490,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 5 PM EST