Sigmar Polke - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Cologne
    Galleri Faurschou, Copenhagen
    The Rokkedal Collection, Denmark (acquired directly from the above in 2001)
    Christie's, London, October 16, 2014, lot 57
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Hjorring, Vendsyssels Kunstmuseum; Hjorring, Museum Sophienholm, Passion. The Rokkedal Collection, March 15 - September 14, 2003, p. 156 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…lots of dots vibrating, resonating, blurring, re-emerging, thoughts of radio signals, radio pictures and television come to mind. In that perspective I think that the raster I am using does show a specific view, that it is a general situation and interpretation: the structure of our time, the structure of social order, of a culture.” – Sigmar Polke

    A remarkable example of Sigmar Polke’s celebrated late Rasterbilder (Raster Paintings), Ohne Title, 1998, offers an enthralling optical experience. Bathed in a wash of interference paint that responds to subtle light fluctuations, the painting beautifully oscillates in iridescent pink and green color as one views the work from different angles. Simultaneously, a whirl of black dots hum across the light sensitive ground like an Impressionist pointillist painting that hovers between abstraction and representation. Viewed up close, the canvas engulfs the viewer into its flickering field of raster dots. From a distance, however, the dots begin to cohere and crystallize into a photographic image of a woman scantily clad in lingerie and wearing high heels. Poised coyly in an incongruous folding chair, her face is turned away from the viewer and obscured by her dark shoulder-length hair. With Ohne Title, Polke has once again demonstrated his extraordinary ability to continually push his pictorial vocabulary into new and unexpected realms: not only is this a remarkable example of the artist’s famed raster technique, it also beautifully evidences an alchemist at work.

    Executed in 1998, Ohne Title demonstrates Polke’s career-long preoccupation with the raster technique that he pioneered in 1963 as a student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In the same year he and fellow students Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg founded the pseudo art movement “Capitalism Realism” against the backdrop of a divided Germany and the Cold War. In a deliberately ironic nod to both the East German Socialist Realist movement and American Pop Art, together they scoured department stores in search of new materials and media from which to derive their art. For Polke, who like Richter had grown up in East Germany, the conspicuous glorification of West Germany’s “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) in mass media seemed fundamentally divorced from reality. It was in this fertile creative context that Polke and Richter developed their respective approaches to taking pre-existing photographs as a point of departure for challenging the purported truth of media imagery and questions of representation more broadly. While Richter pursued his so-called “photo-paintings”, Polke pioneered a distinctive raster dot technique to deliberately expose the artifice of mass media imagery.

    With Ohne Title, Polke has revisited both the formal raster technique and the theme of the female portrait – a rare combination that found its earliest distillation Girlfriends, 1965-1966, Japanese Dancers, 1966, and Bunnies, 1966. Ohne Title represents one of the first works in which Polke reprises this charged subject matter at the turn of the millennium. With his signature blend of irreverence and wit, Polke plays on the art historical theme of the female nude by lifting images of scantily clad women printed in magazines, newspaper and advertisements. Whereas the women in Polke’s earlier works consciously pose for a camera, in this work the woman’s agency is more ambiguous. The titillating subject matter is strangely at odds with the inconspicuous, bare interior setting – evocative of an amateur photoshoot or an off-guard snapshot. The unlikely juxtaposition of the sultry woman with the houseplant here stands as a counterpoint to Polke’s signature palm tree – a motif that represented the exotic and unattainable pleasures of the German petit-bourgeoisie. Executed in 1998, Ohne Title conjures references to the political scandals and indiscretions that were populating German newspapers at the time. Ever the contrarian, Polke has here taken the loaded imagery and dissolved it into near abstraction by painting the raster pattern that emerged from enlarging the print image. Characteristically embracing the aesthetic potential of chance abstraction and technical imperfections, Polke allows for deliberately bleeding, smudging and variances in the saturation of paint between the dots to produce enticing moiré effects. Veiled under a scrim of intoxicating dots, the work presents a powerful continuation of Polke’s tongue-in-cheek critique of mass media culture that he initiated in the 1960s.

    Ohne Title demonstrates how Polke has returned to some of the key themes and motifs of his early career through the lens of the highly experimental and alchemical pictorial language synonymous with his practice of the 1980s. As revered painter Peter Doig makes Polke’s extraordinary legacy clear, “I can’t think of any other painter who’s experimented on materials as much as he has, and I felt that, in a way, he created a no-go area because he did it so well. There have been a few other artists over the years that have used material in a somewhat similar way, but their work always seems quite decorative, whereas with Sigmar’s work it was integral to the way he works and the way he thinks. You do believe that he is a magician or a conjurer or alchemist” (Peter Doig, quoted in Mark Godfrey, “Peter Doig on Sigmar Polke”, Tate Etc., no. 32, Autumn 2014, online). Whereas Polk rendered his early Raster Paintings with overlapping layers of colored paint, here he injects color through the use of interference paint, which is a commercially available material that incorporates the light reflective mineral Mica and results in continuously shifting color patterns based on light conditions and the angle from which one views the work. Whereas Polke in the preceding decade had dripped and poured interference paint, he has here immersed the entirety of the surface onto which he has painted the raster dot patter at center – crucially leaving a border around the rectangular black composition to emphasize the torn edge of the original newsprint that is here monumentally enlarged.

    In many ways, Polke’s embrace of the canvas as an alchemical laboratory achieves the ultimate disruption of the image that he had sought with his very first Raster Paintings in the 1960s. The flickering of raster dots and the constantly changing color undermine both the cohesiveness and the integrity of the image – poetically unraveling before us to reveal the inherent state of flux involved in the nature of perception, imagery, and reality.


Ohne Titel

signed and dated "Sigmar Polke 98'" on the reverse; further signed and dated "Sigmar Polke 98" on the overlap
acrylic and interference color on canvas
43 1/4 x 35 1/2 in. (109.9 x 90.2 cm.)
Executed in 1998.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 2017