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Rudolf Stingel - Untitled
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Rudolf Stingel (B. 1956)\nUntitled\n\ngalvanized cast copper, in four parts\n\n94 1/2 x 94 1/2 in. (240 x 240 cm.)\n\nExecuted in 2012.
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notes

DEATH IN AMERICA: Selections from the Zadig & Voltaire Collection

Resplendently opulent with its stunning gilded surface, Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled is both visually seductive and conceptually complex. Executed in 2012, it is one of the largest majestic gold panels in a series of eight. Each work was cast directly from a section of Celotex insulation paneling that lined the opening room of the artist’s critically acclaimed mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Whitney Museum in New York in 2007. For the duration of the shows, visitors were invited to graffiti the panels with whatever implements they had to hand. Rising eagerly to the occasion with pens, credit cards and even fingernails, the gallery-goers adorned the walls with a lively mass of indentations, ranging from drawings and messages to more atavistic scratches and perforations. After the exhibitions ended, Stingel preserved select sections of the inscribed wall panels and cast them in copper. The surface was then electroplated with gold, preserving the spontaneous expressions of strangers in a magnificently permanent form.

The monumental gold panel, which measures nearly 100 inches square, encapsulates Stingel’s ongoing exploration into the ways we experience and understand an artwork in the postmodern age. By inviting the viewer to actively participate in the creative act, Stingel subverts the traditional hierarchies of painting. He extricates himself almost entirely from the process, and extols the work of the audience by conserving their every mark in a precious material. In doing so, he implies that their collected gestures are equal to those of the individual artist-genius, thus posing a direct challenge to the romantic notion of the significance of the painterly gesture. This was emphasized in the 2007 exhibitions by the reflective silver foil that coated the surfaces of the Celotex installation, which focused the attention back on the audience as they made their inscriptions and highlighted their dual roles as both creator and observer. The pure gold color of the present work can be seen as a development of this aesthetic, and also a wry observation on the status of art as a luxury consumer object.

In its overt glorification of graffiti, Untitled thwarts the audience’s expectations by transforming what is normally perceived as an act of vandalism into a work of high art. Fittingly, the original idea for the work developed from the artist’s observations of visitors’ reactions to the silver Celotex material. In a 2013 interview, Stingel told curator Francesco Bonami that he “only wanted to make a nice silver room; I didn’t expect people to write on the walls. But when it happened, I understood that that’s how it should be, and I didn’t oppose the thing. Indeed, I transformed part of the installation into pictures” (R. Stingel, quoted at http://www.vogue.it/en/uomo-vogue/people-stars/2013/05/rudolf-stingel#ad-image273777). Stingel saw that by actively encouraging visitors to disregard usual museum protocol, he could create an environment that confronted the rarefied way in which art is produced, viewed and consumed. As he said, “All possible pictures have already been made. The only useful thing left to do, I believe, is to confront yourself with the picture, pushing it almost to the edge of a pit of failure and destruction” (ibid.).

Stingel is widely respected for his fearless exploration of the parameters of painting and of the relationship between artist and artwork. He became known in the late 1980s for his silver abstract works and his Instructions booklet (1989), which provided a step-by-step guide to creating them. In the early 1990s he began to experiment with dissolving the boundaries between artworks and spaces they are exhibited in, often by using carpet. For an exhibition at the Daniel Newburg Gallery in 1991, for instance, he covered the floor with a vivid orange carpet, creating a visually consuming, immersive environment. Over the years, his installations using carpets have become more ambitious. The art critic Roberta Smith remembered a 1993 Venice Biennale installation in the Arsenale as “terrific impromptu theatre”. She wrote, “The shock was multiple: Not only was this immense, furry orangeness a painting, it was interactive; you could run your fingers through its color. Yet for all its malleability, the piece remained basically impervious to interference. It was a concrete metaphor for art’s ability to be different for each viewer and yet retain its essential integrity” (R. Smith, “DIY Art: Walk on It, Write on It, Stroke It,” New York Times, June 29, 2007). Most recently, for his lauded 2013 solo show at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the artist took this idea to an extraordinary extreme, enveloping the floors, walls and ceilings of its grand rooms with a synthetic carpet printed with an enlarged digital image of a threadbare oriental rug.

As with the silver Celotex installations and the carpets, Untitled manages to convey a tangible sense of the passage of time. In emphasizing how art can be a shared and participatory experience, it celebrates the possibilities of painting. As curator Massimiliano Gioni has written, “For twenty years now…Stingel has sought to strike a balance between conceptual rigor and the retinal sensuality of painting, between detachment and participation, even between decorativeness and mental purity. His art embodies the paradox of loving painting but wanting to destroy it—or, in any case, to bend it to serve new and unexpected purposes” (M. Gioni, quoted in http://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/book_report/rudolf-stingel-dca-53436).

DEATH IN AMERICA: Selections from the Zadig & Voltaire Collection

title

Untitled

creator

Rudolf Stingel (B. 1956)

exhibited

Paris, Gagosian Gallery, Rudolf Stingel, October-December 2012.

lot_number

45 B

provenance

Gagosian Gallery, Paris

Acquired from the above by the present owner


*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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