Victor Vasarely - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Zet-Ton, painted in 1970-1973, is a spectacular example of Victor Vasarely’s large scale optical paintings from the artist’s acclaimed Vega series. Vasarely’s Vega series, dating from 1968, denotes the most advanced applications of Vasarely’s systematic approach to form and colour. The contrasting colour combinations coupled with the grid-like repetition of patterns are used to create a compelling visual effect. Based on spherical distortions to a polychromatic grid, the painted surface appears to have been warped, giving the feeling of something trying either to erupt from or recede back into the depths of the ordered surface. These characteristics entrancingly trick the viewer’s eye and challenges their perception of the two-dimensional plane.


    Vasarely’s visionary approach to create optical illusions through his paintings began as early as the 1930s, during which time Vasarely worked in advertising agencies to support himself as a graphic designer and a poster artist, combining patterns and organic images. Throughout his career, Vasarely fused the realms of art and graphics, borrowing from a range of artistic influences, including Bauhaus design principles, Wassily Kandinsky, and Constructivism. Vasarely’s lifelong exploration into geometric shapes and colourful graphics credited him as the grandfather and leader of the Op Art movement, which emerged in Europe in the 1960s and includes artists such as Bridget Riley and Jesus Rafael Soto.


    Creating an illusionistic surface, Vasarely successfully challenged the boundaries that separate not only painting and graphics but also painting and sculpture, forming a stylistic hybrid in which three dimensional shapes loom out from the painted flat surface. As the artist once said, ‘Painting and sculpture become anachronistic terms: it’s more exact to speak of bi-, tri- and multidimensional plastic art.'i


    Zet-Ton’s meticulous composition presents the interplay of light and shadow, filling the canvas and drawing the viewer in to its mesmerizing juxtaposition of volume and depth in purples and oranges, hypnotic in its masterful illusion. Vasarely urged viewers to appreciate his work from different vantage points, reinventing one’s relationship with space and movement, ‘Movement does not rely on composition nor a specific subject, but on the apprehension of the act of looking, which by itself is considered as the only creator.’ii Remarkably digital in spirit, his designs introduced a new mode of representation, exploring motion, time and space. Taken out of their original context and paralleled with our digital culture, the genius of these paintings is ever more powerful.


    Victor Vasarely poses in front of one of his Op Art paintings, c. 1978. Image: Interfoto MTI/Getty Images.

    i Marcel Joray, ed., Vasarely vol.I, Neuchatel, 1984, p. 117
    ii Le Mouvement, exh. cat., Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1955, p. 79

    • Provenance

      Galerie Denise René, Paris
      Private Collection (acquired in 1973)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

Property from a Distinguished Collection



signed 'Vasarely' lower centre; signed, titled and dated 'Vasarely "ZET-TON" 1970-73 Vasarely' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas, in artist's frame
116 x 116.4 cm (45 5/8 x 45 7/8 in.)
Conceived in 1970 and painted in 1973.

The authenticity of the present work has been confirmed by Pierre Vasarely, President of the Fondation Vasarely, universal legatee and the moral right holder of Victor Vasarely. This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint de Victor Vasarely, which is currently being compiled by the Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence.

Full Cataloguing

£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £119,700

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021