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Rokoko
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Rokoko
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Rokoko

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About the item

Sigmar Polke’s Rokoko is a masterful work dating from 1994 in which the artist re-invents the eighteenth-century painterly tradition of the fête galante. This genre, which typically denotes scenes of elegantly clad merrymakers frolicking within an Arcadian or pastoral setting, was originally popularised by Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) in works such as The Embarkation for Cythera (1717, Musée du Louvre Paris) and The Dance (1717-18, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh). Titled Rokoko, Polke explicitly enforces such associations with the Rococo period, during which time the highly decorative and ornamental paintings of François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard flourished; indeed, the exuberant manipulation of paint and primary female figure within the present work bear an affinity of manner and attitude to the central protagonist of Fragonard’s The Swing (1767) housed in the Wallace Collection, London. As though transported straight from an engraving or painting from this era, Polke’s group of exquisitely delineated figures attired in eighteenth-century dress here engage in a form of celebration or dance. However, Polke subverts the traditional verisimilitude associated with such classical works of art through loosely applying pearlescent sweeps of colour and shimmering areas of gleaming silver. The addition of variegated white circles hovering at the four corner of the scene further imbues the composition with an aura of the mysterious and mystical. By the 1990s, Polke’s work had gained a new vitality and pictorial dynamism akin to the radical brilliance of his 1960s paintings. Having given up painting for most of the 1970s in favour of experimenting with other media such as photography and film, Polke returned to it with renewed energy in the 1980s and 1990s. Sean Rainbird comments on the changes which occurred in Polke’s painting during the mature period of his career: “Polke appears now to delegate ever more processes in his painting, while remaining in ultimate control. His motifs are usually found within the history of art and illustration… They are often readable only as fragments depicting human agency, against the increasingly unstructured grounds on which he has limited the autograph mark by allowing the liquids he applies to find their own final shape”(Sean Rainbird, ‘Seams and Appearances: learning to paint with Sigmar Polke’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Sigmar Polke, Join the Dots, 1995, p. 22).\nConstant throughout the variations in Polke's artistic methodology was a dedicated interest in the formal and theoretical elements that differentiate abstraction from figuration. While initially this fascination was made manifest in the artist abstracting figurative cultural images, in the late 1980s and early 1990s Polke reversed his approach, suggesting the figurative in the abstract through a sustained inquiry into the reactive possibilities of diverse materials and the possibilities of colour to create a mirage on the surfaces of his canvases. Rokoko displays this thrilling tension between abstraction and figuration, with the elegantly inscribed figures contrasting and merging with the opalescent washes of colour that adorn the canvas surface. The contrast between the precise draftsmanship of the figures and the arcs of iridescent colours from which they emerge results in a striking yet harmonious visual dichotomy, as the viewer perceives glimpses of detail amidst areas of complex tonal hues. In its remarkable amalgamation of image, colour and non-objective and corporeal form, Rokoko reveals the astonishing assurance of the artist’s mature technique, and can be considered as a work of profound importance within Polke’s oeuvre of this period.\nPolke produced work of astonishing diversity and versatility throughout his career, forging a painterly language that was utterly unique in its embrace of innovative artistic forms and ideas. Polke’s works teasingly defy categorisation, eluding association with conventional art historical movements in favour of an extraordinarily eclectic stylistic language. The artist transcends the boundaries of traditional painting, moving into fascinatingly unpredictable dominions of creative experimentation, whilst imbuing his works with a sense of subtle satire and humour. Polke challenges us to unravel the riddles he presents on canvas, yet does so in a way that ultimately leaves interpretation a matter of personal opinion. Peter Schjeldahl comments on the enigmatic nature of Polke’s oeuvre: “To learn more and more about him, it has sometimes seemed to me, is to know less and less. His art is like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland rabbit hole, entrance to a realm of spiralling perplexities…” (Peter Schjeldhal, ‘The Daemon and Sigmar Polke’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990-1991, p. 17). This astounding range of multiple meanings ensures that Polke’s painting remains one of the most endlessly fascinating bodies of work produced by any artist active during the last few decades.\nSigned and dated 94 on the stretcher
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notes

Please note that the medium for this work is acrylic on printed fabric.

medium

Acrylic on printed fabric

creator

Sigmar Polke

condition

Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the illustration fails to convey the fine glittering quality of the surface. Condition: This work is in very good condition. As visible in the catalogue illustration, there are three holes towards the bottom left corner and a further hole towards the centre of the bottom edge, all of which appear to be original and inherent to the artist's choice of found fabric. Very close inspection reveals a shallow dent to the overturn edge of the stretcher at the top towards the centre. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

290 by 290cm.; 114 1/8 by 114 1/8 in.

exhibition

Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Sigmar Polke: Join the Dots, 1995, p. 95, illustrated in colour Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland; Berlin, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Sigmar Polke: Die drei Lügen der Malerei, 1997-98, p. 231, illustrated in colour

provenance

Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris Private Collection, London James Cohan Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the above in 2000) Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

signedDate

Signed and dated 94 on the stretcher

consignmentDesignation

Property from a European Private Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1941-2010


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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