Sturtevant - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the artist
    Perry Rubenstein, New York
    Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris
    Sale: Christie’s, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art, May 2011, lot 370
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Sturtevant, April 9 - May 21, 1994
    Vienna, Galerie Mezzanin, Sturtevant, October 1 - November 22, 2003
    Frankfurt am Main, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, September 25, 2004 – January 30, 2005

  • Literature

    L. Maculan, ed., Sturtevant: Catalogue Raisonné 1964-2004, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 54, no. 39 (illustrated)
    Museum für Moderne Kunst, Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, Frankfurt am Main, 2004, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

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

    (Sturtevant, in “Interior Visibilities,” D. Ottinger, ed. Magritte, exh. Cat. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, 1996, p. 124).

    Elaine Sturtevant’s practice can be situated within the art historical context of appropriation, which, since Duchamp’s readymades, has maintained a significant presence over the span of a century. Operating through this philosophical lens, Sturtevant challenges romanticized notions of aura by carefully reproducing iconic works of art. With Johns White Numbers, 1991, Sturtevant does not merely comment on the artistic achievements of others, she questions, changes, and expands the established notions
    of an art form. This intellectual appropriation is not simply a form of “copying” but a form of mimesis radiating with finesse and energy; all aspects which undoubtedly emanate off of the surface of Johns White Numbers, 1991. Here the numbers, each contained within their own little box, thrive with pure luminosity, an expansive study in the color white. The splashes of flawless and bright white pigment drench the canvas in swirling and activated motions, infusing the always-recognizable painting
    with new vitality and, most importantly, youth.

    In an anecdote, Gerd de Vries describes his experience of viewing a Sturtevant against an “original:” “There was an exhibition in Riehen, at the Beyeler Foundation… the show included a Flag painting by Johns as well as Johns Flag by Sturtevant. The strange thing was that her picture was decidedly more powerful, more intense, more abounding with energy than one by Johns.” (Gerd de Vired, in Sturtevant: Catalogue Raisonné 1964 - 2004, Paintings Sculpture Film and Video, Frankfurt am Main, Museum für Moderne Kunst, 2004, p. 35). Thirty-years younger than Johns’ painting, Johns White Numbers, 1991, transmits a vibrant energy that has faded from the original over time. Sturtevant amplifies Johns’ contribution, turning up the volume for future generations.

  • 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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Johns White Numbers

encaustic on canvas
67 1/8 x 49 1/2 in. (170.4 x 125.7 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated “Johns WHITE Numbers, sturtevant '91” on the reverse.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $362,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York