Sturtevant - Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, 2005
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    New York, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, Sturtevant, May - June 2005

  • Literature

    L. Maculan, ed., Sturtevant: Catalogue Raisonné 1964-2004, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, cat. no. 223, p. 103

  • Catalogue Essay

    "The quest was to go beyond, to seek past the surface and reach for the understructure – the silent power of art."
    Sturtevant, 2006

    Sturtevant has always remained adamant that her works are not appropriations--they are in fact repetitions. This distinction has remained a difficult one for the public to grasp; in defending her work, she explains, “no matter how I articulated what I was doing, in people’s mind it was a copy --- period, and you know, if someone continues to call something something, it eventually becomes that something.” (Sturtevant in C. Bagley, “Sturtevant: Repeat Offender,” W Magazine, May 18, 2014)

    Remaking and re-imagining the works of her contemporaries, as one can well imagine, was a tricky business. In surveying her output of “repetitions,” one must admit that her particular selection of works is impeccable: the originals are now all acknowledged as masterpieces within the cannon of modern and contemporary art. From Joseph Bueys to Andy Warhol, Sturtevant has tried her hand at almost every artist movement in the last century, from Conceptual to Pop Art. Her inventiveness is not found in the final result, which is almost identical to the original, but rather in her unique process. She constructs her pursuits from her very own memory; this process is meant to produce works identical to the originals, yet through her treatment an entirely new concept is realized. Her act of creating these works becomes an almost choreographed experience, using her muscle memory to dictate every brushstroke and line.

    As to be expected, the public’s response to her work has been varied; the artist described many people as having a “mental block” towards her ideas. She has also described a viewer’s physical reaction to her work by saying that “one of two things happens. Your head either goes forward or it goes backward. If it goes backward, you dismiss the work as a worthless copy. Forward is, ‘Oh, my God, what is that? How does that work?’ ”(Sturtevant in C. Bagley, “Sturtevant: Repeat Offender,” W Magazine, May 18, 2014) The moral and even legal controversy emerging in the 1960’s over the notion of authorship compelled Sturtevant’s strategic response: she decided to define her work as what it is not, meaning not a direct copy. She explains that a “negative definition is a very powerful philosophical position.” (Sturtevant in conversation with Peter Halley, index Magazine, September – October, 2005) By forcing the viewer to contemplate what in fact her work is and what it connotes, Sturtevant says she threw “out representation. And once you do that, you can start talking about the understructure. It seemed too simple at first. But it’s always the simple things that work." (Sturtevant, 2005)

    The present lot, Stella, Study for Bethlehem Hospital, 1990, is a repetition of Frank Stella’s black painting series from the late 1960s, which were executed and composed of black house paint on raw canvas. For Stella, the painstakingly rendered stripes hold no illusion of depth and emphasize the pure flatness of the object. Sturtevant has described Stella’s black paintings as “just incredible” and the present lot highlights the amazing skill and execution of her rendering. As we gaze upon the monochromatic splendor of the present lot, her repetition of this important moment of the late 1960s is beautifully revisited. For Sturtevant, the 1960’s was “the big bang of pop art. But pop only dealt with the surface, I started asking questions about what lay beneath the surface. What is the understructure of art? What is the silent power of art?” (Sturtevant in conversation with Peter Halley, index Magazine, September – October, 2005) Sturtevant’s interest in the “silent power” is the driving force behind her long and productive artistic career. Sturtevant is “somebody who basically adopts style as a medium, and in order to do that she assumed the guise of the artists around her. This is an incredibly powerful and threatening thing to take on.”(Peter Eleey in C. Bagley, “Sturtevant: Repeat Offender,” W Magazine, May 18, 2014)

  • Artist Biography


    Elaine Sturtevant, known professionally as Sturtevant, was an American artist whose practice considered issues of authorship, authenticity, and the nature of reproduction. Her carefully inexact recreations, referred to as “repetitions,” of the work of her contemporaries attracted almost immediate attention as Sturtevant embarked on this practice in 1964, copying the work of fellow artists and friends like Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein. Sturtevant mastered several artforms including painting, sculpture, photography, and film in order to faithfully repeat the work of her contemporaries, continually updating her process in order to keep pace with the changing tides of the avant-garde. Many of the artists Sturtevant repeated, often before they became famous, would later be considered the iconic artists of their respective movements and generations. Her late work is concerned with reproduction and repetition in the digital world.  

    Sturtevant’s work has attracted simultaneous acclaim and criticism for its close copying of the work of other artists. Her work has been praised as innovative and insightful, and the artist has been the subject of major retrospectives at institutions such as the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, the Serpentine Galleries, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris. Sturtevant received the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale for lifetime achievement. She died in 2014 in Paris, where she had been living and working since the 1990s. 

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Study for Stella Bethlehem's Hospital

enamel on canvas
21 7/8 x 33 1/8 in. (55.7 x 84.1 cm)
Signed, titled and dated ""STUDY FOR STELLA BETHLEHEM'S HOSPITAL" Sturtevant '90" along the overlap.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $317,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, Design
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 3 March 2015 6pm