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Spider III

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) Spider III ‘The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it’ –Louise Bourgeois ‘With the spider, I try to put across the power and the personality of a modest animal. Modest as it is, it is very definite and it is indestructible. It is not about the animal itself, but my relation to it. It establishes the fact that the spider is my mother, believe it or not’ –Louise Bourgeois Spider III is among the most significant and personal works created by Louise Bourgeois, an artist whose career spanned over seven decades of remarkable productivity. This rare and unique steel example of her iconic arachnid motif, executed in 1995, represents the first conception of Spider III: for each new realisation of her Spider sculpture series, before the subsequent bronze editions, Bourgeois produced a single version in steel, intended either for the artist herself or for acquisition by museums or close personal friends. Among the most rich and complex images of her long and varied practice, the spider first appeared in Bourgeois’ work as early as 1947, but began to dominate her output from the mid-1990s. Charged with the paradoxical nature of the creature itself, and reflecting Bourgeois’ own turbulent relationships with those closest to her, the spider’s wider symbolic associations are deeply entwined with its profound personal import for the artist. With its combination of irregular, hand-worked surfaces and smooth, highly finished elements, Spider III is a complex hybrid of menace and emotional vulnerability. Rearing up almost a metre in height upon its eight legs, the work is one of the earliest versions of a sculptural form she would revisit throughout the 1990s, and whose various manifestations grace major museum collections worldwide. From Tate Modern in London to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Bourgeois’ arachnid presences have been celebrated by critics and public alike. The human scale of this particular Spider creates a sense of preternatural unease, offering a more unsettlingly intimate encounter than larger spider sculptures such as the monumental Maman (1999), one version of which today towers ten metres tall outside the Guggenheim Bilbao. The tense, arched front legs of Spider III suggest that the creature is bracing itself for a burst of activity, either to flee an approaching threat or poised to attack a creature who dares to wander into its lair. Its material formulation is uncanny, reflecting the duality of a work structured on contradictions. The textural fascination of its steel surface, transitioning between the smooth, attenuated areas of the vertical elements and the molten knots of welding at the joints and abdomen, beckons tactile engagement, while our fear of the spider – itself a cocktail of innate, primal drives and cultural conditioning – inevitably flares up in response to its eight-legged form. Spider III is at once repellent and hypnotically attractive, a sinuous, sophisticated creation that nonetheless seems dredged from the very depths of the dark subconscious. As with all of Bourgeois’ work, Spider III is intensely autobiographical, relating particularly to her early childhood and the difficult relationship she had with her family. Bourgeois has widely acknowledged that the spider motif is an ode to her mother, who repaired tapestries in the family textile restoration workshop in Aubusson. Bourgeois adored her mother, and when she died in 1932, Bourgeois attempted suicide by throwing herself into a river, only to be rescued by her father, with whom her relationship was rather more complex. Louis Bourgeois was a philanderer whom Louise both admired and detested. Entangled in his own web of infidelity and deception, her father could not extricate himself from his ten-year affair with the artist’s governess that continued throughout much of her childhood. The spider, the spinner of webs, with its dual role of predator and protector, becomes the perfect totem for Bourgeois’ emotionally fraught upbringing. The weaving of webs is an important metaphorical motif that runs throughout Bourgeois’ practice. From its long associated the idea of sewing and repair – and in turn, the image of a spider – with her mother, who she saw as a protective, nurturing figure, and who had herself been irreparably damaged by her husband’s unfaithfulness and cruelty. Beyond the idea of a spider as patient, meticulous maternal weaver, the creature can also be as a stand-in for Bourgeois herself, making a defiant statement of female creativity in a field dominated by male artists. Her own weaving of artistic forms and narratives is no domestic chore, but a mode of visionary fabrication from deep-seated strands of self. As Eva Keller has written of Bourgeois, ‘She produces by secreting … Ceaselessly, she spins the space of her life and her work, incessantly inventing and redefining it. Her own extended body determines the space of her web. It incorporates the wiles of the hunter; it is host to elementary needs — for the spider, mystery and secretion are intimately allied’ (E. Keller, ‘Unraveling Louise Bourgeois: An Attempt’, in Louise Bourgeois: Emotions Abstracted, Werke/Works 1941–2000, Zurich, 2004, p. 27). The legend of Arachne, the talented mortal weaver who was turned into a spider by the goddess Athena for daring to challenge her skill, further conjures mythic associations of female envy and jealousy. Louise Bourgeois’ reputation as an artist grew steadily during the later decades of her life. Having been overshadowed for many years by first-generation Abstract Expressionists, her major importance came to be recognised in the 1980s with a series of one-woman exhibitions in New York. In 1982, she was the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and had her first exhibitions in London and Paris. By the time she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1993, her reputation as an influential and innovative artist was firmly established. Amid a varied body of work that has encompassed drawing, lithography, carving, casting, assemblage, installation and performance art, her spider sculptures remain the central icons her artistic output. Intensely personal yet elaborating universal themes, Spider III brings together the tangled skeins of Bourgeois’ life: a duplicitous father, a protective mother, and the artist, who re-enacted her psychic torment in various material forms throughout her practice. Ultimately, for all its darkness, Bourgeois’ spider is an avowal of strength, and an embodiment of the therapeutic power of artistic creation. ‘The spider is a repairer’, the artist once claimed. ‘If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in F. Morris, Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2009, p. 272). steel 19 x 35 x 37½in. (48.3 x 88.9 x 95.3cm.) Executed in 1995, this work is unique There is a later bronze edition of six plus one artist's proof. Edition number five of six from the bronze edition is in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D. C.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2018-03-06
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Bloodline: Big Family No.9

Zhang Xiaogang oil on canvas Painted in 1996. Presenting an extremely rare rendition by highly sought-after contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family No. 9 offers a master work from his most compelling body of works- the Bloodline (1993 – 1999) series. The iconic three-member family portrait has been described as being modelled after a photograph of the artist's brother as an infant and his parents. Existing between the collective vision of socialist China and his own dissonant voice, Zhang created the very first 'family' painting as a mode to negotiate the conflicts of group versus individual identity in early 1990s China. As a result of this series of meticulously rendered solitary figures and family clusters inspired by the artist’s Cultural Revolution-era family photographs, Zhang’s reputation grew significantly, especially after the artist was invited to exhibit several paintings from this seminal body of works in the world’s most important venues including the 1994 São Paulo Biennial and the 1995 Venice Biennale. Since then, Zhang’s esteem and the particular distinction of Bloodline has only grown to garner increasing critical attention and international acclaim. (K. Markley, 'Zhang Xiaogang Artist Index and the Bloodline Series,' Artnet News, February 26, 2012) Fresh to the market, Bloodline: Big Family No. 9 exemplifies a mature work by an artist accredited as one of the leading figures of contemporary Chinese art. Imbuing an intricate psychological dimension to the present lot, all three members of Bloodline: Big Family No. 9 stare solemnly straight-ahead towards the viewer. Around the right sides of the woman’s mouth, baby’s forehead and man’s eye, blocks or patches of light furthermore resemble birth marks, aged film, symbols of social stigma, or, alternatively, a “lingering sense of the sitter’s self-assertion.” (‘Zhang Xiaogang,’ Saatchi Gallery Artist Profile) Positioned around a baby based directly on the artist’s brother, illustrated in a bright red colour, the young man and woman—drawn from Zhang’s mother and father—wear modest cotton jackets and conservative haircuts, customs indexical to the Cultural Revolution era. While red is auspicious in Chinese culture, Zhang’s proclivity towards this hue also references the ubiquitous Mao-era slogan, “the Red, Bright and Illuminous” (紅、光、亮), a statement that prescribed the homogenised socialist realist style characterised by the “sleek surface” and filtered, “theatrical illumination” mandated of all art created during that time. (Gao M.L. quoted in 1995 in J. Chi Zhang, ‘The Meaning of Style: Postmodernism, Demystification, and Dissonance in Post-Tiananmen Chinese Avant-Garde Art,’ in R. Eyerman and L. McCormick, Myth, Meaning, And Performance: Toward A New Cultural Sociology Of The Arts, New York: Routledge, 2016) Infused from birth with the revolutionary colour of the red flag to furthermore signal the 'birth' of a new political regime, the red baby also appeared in Zhang’s earlier momentous painting exhibited at the 1992 Guangzhou Biennial, Genesis – Birth of a Republic No. 1 (1992). The central baby figure moreover remind critics of China’s controversial One-Child Policy introduced in 1978. Depicted with noticeably mature facial features in a realist style, both red babies convey peculiarly sombre and detached expressions indicating a preternaturally self-conscious awareness of being born into an era of political turmoil rife with tension and uncertainty. This is perhaps all the more significant considering that Zhang based the present work on a photograph taken on the occasion of his elder brother’s 100th Day celebration, injecting the work with a palpable sense of trepidation for the future.Invoking the title of the series, barely perceptible red threads weave around the baby- connecting him to his parents and linking the father figure to a space beyond the limitations of the canvas. Throughout the Bloodline series, Zhang ingeniously references Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s use of red lines such as in the shared veins of The Two Fridas (1939). Though Zhang’s 'bloodlines' evoke the universality of memories of the Cultural Revolution, these red threads also recall how during that period, children were urged to draw clear lines between themselves and parents accused of transgression. Thus, in comparison to Kahlo’s explicitly exposed veins, Zhang’s 'bloodlines' are more elusive in meaning, denoting both the familial relations between figures and the troubling “chains that restrain them in the darkness.” (H. Yukihiro, Avant-garde China: Twenty Years Of Chinese Contemporary Art, Osaka: National Museum of Art, 2008) Though the image springs from a personal narrative, Bloodline: Big Family No. 9 can be interpreted as illustrative of a nation’s memory. “The way I understand the big family is always associated with the danwei [the state-sanctioned work unit] and my own family… being a member of a big family is an identity deeply rooted in the Chinese blood…” explains Zhang; “the phrase ‘big family’ stemmed from a Maoist slogan, ‘We all live in a big revolutionary family.’ This slogan emphasises collectivity and conformity, not individuality.” (Zhang Xiaogang quoted in J. Fineberg and G. G. Xu, Zhang Xiaogang: Disquieting Memories, London: Phaidon, 2015, p. 83). Painted primarily in black and white, Zhang’s Bloodline series borrows the language of photography, a medium that was considered precious due to its costliness at the time, to represent individual histories within the strict confines of formula. In Autumn of 1992, Zhang spent three months in Germany experiencing in person for the first time the modern western art he had studied profusely as a student through reproductions in books. Zhang’s encounter with Gerhard Richter’s exploitation of photography in painting as a means of undermining the photograph’s assumed truth value irrevocably altered Zhang’s relationship to painting. According to art critic Huang Zhuan, Richter’s use of photography prompted Zhang to consider “how to create a psychological reality on canvas… that is simultaneously phantasmagorical and substantial, complete with feelings of time and distance.” (Huang Zhuan quoted in J. Fineberg and G. G. Xu, Zhang Xiaogang: Disquieting Memories, London: Phaidon, 2015, p. 75) The blemish-free, impermeable effect of Zhang’s figures lacking in any visible brushstrokes illustrate the artist’s interest in re-touched studio photographs that standardise and imbue ideological culture onto private family matters. (Zhang Xiaogang, quoted in Huang Z., ‘Experience, Identity and Judgement, Interview with Zhang Xiaogang’, Gallery, no.5-6, 1996. Cited in J. Chang T.Z., ed., Umbilical Cord of History: Paintings by Zhang Xiaogang, Hong Kong: Hanart TZ Gallery, 2004, p. 46). Reading the Bloodlines series through the lens of the psychological trauma resulting from the Cultural Revolution does not comprehensively elucidate the emotional power of Bloodline: Big Family No. 9. Though Zhang’s repeated mechanisms in Bloodlines, including the stiff poses and colourless settings serve to group Zhang’s subjects as part of a collective referring to the lost concept of individuality, scholars have also pointed out that the issues of “dissonance between official and the remembered past, between individually perceived and publicly acknowledged truth, have global resonances too.”(J. Fineberg and G. G. Xu, Zhang Xiaogang: Disquieting Memories, London: Phaidon, 2015, p. 12) The blank expressions, exaggerated by the similar facial features of all members of the present lot, invite viewers to fill the void within the image with their subjective stories, experiences and reflection. Zhang has written that these figures represent "souls struggling one by one under the forces of public standardisation," with "faces bearing emotions smooth as water but full of internal tension," a description not necessarily having only to do with the cultural specificity of China but could also reveal the global issues affecting change in the world today. ( Zhang Xiaogang quoted in M. O’Dea, ‘Artist Dossier: Zhang Xiaogang,’ Art + Auction 34, no. 7, March 2011, pp.103-106).

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2018-05-27
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'the pond -- moonlight'

Multiple gum bichromate print over platinum, signed and dated by the photographer in crayon on the image, mounted, matted, framed, 1904 Edward Steichen’s ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ ranks among the photographer’s greatest achievements in Pictorial photography.  An aesthetic and technical tour-de-force, the print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here shows Steichen operating at the very peak of his early powers.  The painterly qualities of this masterpiece, combined with its photographic realism, its large scale, and its supreme technical virtuosity, place it alongside Steichen’s magnificent study of the Flatiron Building as the photographer’s most ambitious artistic statement; together, they are the culmination of the movement known as Pictorialism.  Operatic in their intention and in their effect, the ‘Pond’ and ‘Flatiron’ series are the young Edward Steichen’s bravura confirmation of the validity of the photographic medium.  As one critic wrote in The Photogram of 1905, there was an answer to ‘that addled question in the short catechism of the camera: “Is photography an art?” with all its bungling answers in extenso. “Let the answer be: Yes: it is Steichen.”’ Like the series of Steichen’s ‘Flatiron Building’ now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, only three examples of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ are known, and as in the ‘Flatiron’ series, each in this trio is different in tone, in atmosphere, and in subtle detail.  In addition to the present photograph, there is the print of ‘The Pond’ that Stieglitz gave the Metropolitan in 1933; and the print that Steichen himself gave to The Museum of Modern Art in 1967.  Although created from the same negative, the three prints are the results of different photographic processes and are a testament to Steichen’s artistic goals and to his finely honed abilities as a printer.  Multiple-process printing, on this large scale, was practiced by no one as it was practiced by Steichen. The negative for ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ was made in the wetlands around Marmaroneck, New York, on Long Island Sound, near the home of Charles H. Caffin (1854 – 1918), the English-born art critic who had championed Steichen’s work in his volume Photography as a Fine Art (see Lot 5).  After the birth of their first daughter in July of 1904, the Steichens sought refuge from the stifling heat of their top-floor Manhattan apartment, gratefully accepting an invitation to spend August with Caffin and his wife Caroline.  The August visit stretched into September when Steichen suffered a bout of typhoid and was hospitalized for three weeks.  A gelatin silver print of a closely-related image, entitled ‘Autumn,’ now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, is inscribed ‘Autumn, Marmaroneck, N. Y., 1904,’ by Alfred Stieglitz on the reverse, a likely indication that the present photograph was made in September, during the latter part of the Steichens’ stay (The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Volume 16, 1988, fig. 93). The woods at dusk, or in moonlight, was one of Steichen’s favorite subjects, one to which he returned time and again in the years before the first World War, in paintings as well as photographs.  Although few of his paintings survive—he destroyed most of them in his notorious bonfire in Voulangis after the war—their titles echo his obsession with the effects of glimmering light in nocturnal settings: ‘The Road to the Lake—Moonlight,’ ‘The Moonlight Promenade—The Sea,’ ‘Balcony, Nocturne, Lake George,’ and ‘Moonlit Landscape,’ among others.  A rare surviving painting from that period, now in the Whitney Museum of Art, shows parallel rows of trees in an unidentified glen, the moon rising to the top of the composition, its light reflected in the water in the foreground (reproduced in Dennis Longwell, Steichen: The Master Prints, New York, 1978, p. 17).  ‘The romantic and mysterious quality of moonlight, the lyric aspect of nature made the strongest appeal to me’ Steichen wrote in his autobiography.  ‘Most of the paintings—watercolors—that I did in my early years were of moonlight subjects. . . the real magician was light itself—mysterious and ever-changing light with its accompanying shadows rich and full of mystery’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1). The influences of not only individual painters but also whole artistic movements on this period of Steichen’s work have been variously discussed in the literature: Dennis Longwell, in his Steichen: The Master Prints, 1914-1985, The Symbolist Period (op. cit.) and Lucy Bowditch, in ‘Steichen and Maeterlinck: The Symbolist Connection’ (History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1999), for instance, are among many who tie Steichen to the international Symbolist movement.  Christian Peterson, in ‘The Photograph Beautiful: 1895 – 1915’ (History of Photography, Volume 16, Number 3, Autumn 1992), states the case for the Arts & Crafts movement, with its attendant influences of Whistler, Arthur Wesley Dow, and Japonisme.  And a number of scholars refer to Steichen’s relationship with Scandinavian painters such as Fritz Thaulow, especially Melinda Boyd Parsons, in her article ‘”Moonlight on Darkening Ways”: Concepts of Nature and the Artist in Edward and Lilian Steichen’s Socialism’ (American Art, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 1997).   That a host of authors have found sources for Steichen’s early work in this variety of international styles testifies to Steichen’s talents as a visual magpie, seizing and synthesizing from the cultural plethora around him, not only in his Pictorialist phase, but throughout his career.  And, as always with Steichen, the total, as in ‘The Pond—Moonlight,’ was equal to far more than the sum of the parts. Steichen admitted that, following in the traditions of the day, he initially saw his woodland photographs as preliminary studies for moonlight paintings.  ‘I made realistic notes of the actual night colors on the spot,’ he wrote about one Milwaukee twilight photography session, ‘describing the colors I saw in terms of a mixture of pigments to be used in the painting’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1).  If a Steichen letter from 1903 is any indication, the photographer vividly recorded in his mind the colors of a setting, even if planning a photograph: ‘We had a moon night before last—the like of which I had never seen before—the whole landscape was still bathed in a warm twilight glow—the color was simply marvelous in its dark bright—and into this rose a large disc of brilliant golden orange in a warm purplish sky—Gold. . . ’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 94).  The ability of oil on canvas to capture the colors of a night setting, as well as its shadowy forms, was for Steichen one of painting’s most valuable aspects.  Steichen was from an early date preoccupied with color in photography, and he was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, in 1907, when the Lumière brothers devised the first practical photographic color process, the autochrome.   Indeed, as aficionados of Camera Work know, so committed was Steichen to capturing the subtle colorations of certain moonlit scenes that he resorted to personally hand-tinting every copy of two photogravure plates issued in Camera Work:  the ‘Road into the Valley—Moonrise’ in the Steichen Supplement of 1906, and ‘Pastoral—Moonlight’ in Camera Work Number 19, from 1907. It was the malleable gum-bichromate process, and his consummate mastery of it, that allowed Steichen to realize to the fullest his vision of the moonlit landscape.  He was conversant in the basics of gum-bichromate before he left for Paris in 1900--‘I had read an article by Robert Demachy, a famous French photographer, about a process that he used extensively and referred to as a gum-bichromate process,’ he wrote in his autobiography (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1)—and he had experimented with gum in his Milwaukee images.   His exposure to the European masters of the process, however, as well as the photographs he saw in the European salons, broadened his outlook and showed him the possibilities of what could be achieved in terms of multiple printing on a large scale. His best introduction to the expressive uses of gum-bichromate would have been Robert Demachy (1859 – 1936), the French gentleman photographer who was married to a relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was a fluent English speaker and writer.  Demachy practiced the gum-bichromate process almost exclusively from the 1890s until 1906, when he took up the Rawlins oil process.  His writings on gum-bichromate, in both French and English, were authoritative, and he befriended Steichen during the young photographer’s first sojourn in Paris.  The photographer who brought both scale and multiple colors to the process was Heinrich Kühn (1866 – 1944) (see Lots 38 – 40), the leader of the Viennese secession and like Demachy, a contributor to Camera Work.   Steichen met him in Munich in 1901, and could not have failed to have been impressed with the vivid colors achieved by Kühn through multiple, layered printings from different negatives. The works of these and other European practitioners of gum-bichromate, alone or combined with other processes, were seen and studied by Steichen at the salons on the Continent and in London. In France, Steichen began working in gum-bichromate and combination processes with a vengeance.  Always ready to take up a challenge, he rose to the process’s technical demands and used its painterly qualities to prove that certain types of photographs could be worked over and multiply-printed until they were indistinguishable from etchings or other traditional fine prints.  His duping of the jury of the 1902 Champs de Mars salon is told over and over again in the Steichen narrative: how he submitted, and had accepted, ten gum-bichromate prints to the graphic arts category, only to have them rejected once the committee discovered they were photographs.  This early grand-standing aside, he worked very seriously, and with great power, in the combination processes, producing a series of Pictorial masterworks, of which the present image is one. The print offered here is a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum, and its depth and color come from skillful layers of manipulated, sequential printing, in different tones, from one negative.  The initial ‘base’ of the image would have been a platinum print, over which was printed one or more ‘layers’ of gum-bichromate.  Each of these subsequent layers could not only be a different tone, but could also be altered on its surface with a brush or sponge during development, allowing for manual control of the shapes and shadows.  In large format especially, the technique was elaborate, tricky, and laborious.  Although Steichen rarely discussed his printing in detail, there is an extant, undated letter he sent to Stieglitz regarding his large, multiple-process prints, which reads in part: ‘. . . [the prints] represent two months hard work to say nothing of the expense which my bills testify to.  Big plates mean more failures and cost like h__l.  I wish you could see the new things—They will be hard to hang—One in particular . . . ‘The Big Cloud’ . . . it’s a whopper—and will compel attention—although I’m afraid they may refuse to hang it— d__m if they do.  Another one Moonrise in three printings: first printing, grey black plat[itnum]—2nd, plain blue print (secret), 3rd, greenish gum.  It is so very dark I must take the glass off because it acts too much like a mirror.  I hope they will handle it carefully . . .’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 17). As these large multiple-process prints were each created by a process not dissimilar from the creation of fine cuisine, with special touches known only to the chef, it is difficult to single out the ingredients of Steichen’s prints: thus it is hard to know if the description above applies perfectly to one of the three extant ‘Pond’ images, or to another print of the image now lost.   The print offered here has been analyzed recently by the conservation department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it is described by them as a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum.  The print given to the Metropolitan by Stieglitz, also analyzed recently by their conservation department, appears to be a platinum print with applied Prussian blue and calcium-based white pigment, likely hand-applied.  The third print, in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, is catalogued as a platinum and ferro-prussiate print.  Each is different, and each is striking in its own way.  As the photographer Joan Harrison, herself an accomplished printer in alternative photographic processes, has succinctly stated, ‘Gum-Bichromate is the most individual of all photographic printing processes both in method and result.  The hand of the artist is evident in every print and the medium is unique in that its malleability allows for the development of a personal colour palette suited to nearly any taste or sensibility’ (‘Colour in the Gum-Bichromate Process,’ in History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1993, p. 375). Steichen’s large-format multiple process prints presented him with what must have been the most complex and challenging darkroom experiences he had known in his career to that point, and probably thereafter.  But these multiple-process prints were difficult, costly, and time-consuming, and these limitations precluded their production in any quantity.  That, coupled with the deterioration or loss of most of the photographer’s early Pictorial negatives during the first World War, make original Steichen multiple-process prints among the rarest works in his entire oeuvre. The print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here was purchased from Alfred Stieglitz, presumably acting as Steichen’s agent, by John Aspinwall, in 1906.  Aspinwall, a friend and supporter of Stieglitz and an amateur photographer himself, served as president of the Camera Club of New York in the early years of the last century.  The date on Aspinwall’s bill of sale, 3 April 1906, may indicate that the print he purchased was the actual print of the image included in a major retrospective of Steichen’s work at the Photo-Secession Galleries from the 9th to the 24th of March 1906.    The original bill of sale to Aspinwall, in Stieglitz’s hand, which at one time accompanied the print, is now lost.  The print was also at one time accompanied by a copy of a letter from Steichen to Mrs. John Aspinwall Wagner, a descendant of the original owner, stating that the relatively high price of $75.00, paid in 1906, indicated that Steichen and Stieglitz thought the print was an especially fine one.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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Withdrawal

The master set

A group of 548 photographs by Edward Weston, printed by his son, Cole Weston, each mounted, 536 stamped and signed by Cole Weston, 12 with The Cole Weston Trust stamp, signed by trustee Cara Weston, and nearly all with title, date, and negative number in other hands in pencil on the reverse, 1918-49, most printed between 1958 and 1988, none later than 2003 The 548 photographs in this lot span the entire range of Edward Weston’s career as a photographer, from his early Pictorial figure studies to his last landscapes on Point Lobos.  There are excellent, representative pictures of his work in Glendale, where he had his first studio; his transition from Pictorialist to Modernist in Mexico; his memorable work with shells, vegetables, and plants; his elegant series of female nudes, including many images of his most important muse, Charis Wilson; his studies of cloud-filled skies and windswept dunes; his panorama of America, first for California and the West  and then for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; portraits of friends, family, authors, and artists over several decades; and finally, photographs from his last years at Wildcat Hill, photographs that suggest a new direction his work might have taken, had his career not been cut short by illness.  This Master Set encapsulates the full scope of Weston’s achievement in the art of photography and offers a definitive statement of his importance to the history of art of the 20thcentury.    The majority of the prints in this catalogue were made by Cole Weston in the years between 1958, when his father died, and 1988, when Cole decided to cut back on printing from his father’s negatives and concentrate on his own work as a photographer.   Although most of Edward Weston’s negatives went, as part of Weston’s archive, to the Center for Creative Photography in 1981, a selection of the more popular negatives were kept by Cole at his  Garrapata studio, and new prints were made by him from time to time, until his own passing in 2003.   Cole also had the right to borrow back negatives from the Center for Creative Photography during his lifetime. A surprising number of the images offered here are not represented by prints in the Edward Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson: the Center has no prints—neither early prints by Edward, nor Project Prints by his son Brett—of over 140 of the images that comprise the present lot.   These include, among many others, two of the iconic shells (Conger F.2 and F.3), one of the peppers, the maguey cactus, the leeks, a rare pose from the famous ‘Charis on the dunes’ series, Charis at Lake Ediza, and Charis in a gas mask (Conger F.5). In other instances, Amy Conger, in her catalogue of Weston prints at the Center, lists only a handful of extant prints in institutions (sometimes as few as one or two) that correspond to certain Cole prints offered here.  Among these are the famous bedpan (Conger 582; the Center’s print is a print by Cole); the memorable ‘Hot Coffee’ (Conger 1175) and the Excusado (Conger 184); the bananas (Conger 597) and the Chinese cabbage (Conger 652); exquisite cloud studies (Conger 912, 913, and 1329); the duck and lily at Point Lobos (Conger 1496); Charis in the hammock (Conger 1032); and nudes of Miriam Lerner, Bertha, Virginia, and others too numerous to mention.   That few prints of these images—by Edward, Brett, or Cole—ever appear at auction, is worth noting.  Not only comprised of icons, the Master Set includes a range of images that are rare in any form and that will not be printed again.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-09-30
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Georgia o'keeffe (hands)

Palladium print, numbered 'OK 25 E' by Doris Bry in pencil on the reverse, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919; accompanied by an earlier modern white metal frame, with Gilman Paper Company and Doris Bry labels on the reverse Throughout Alfred Stieglitz’s multi-decade, multi-image portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, the painter’s mobile and expressive hands are frequently a focal point.  Among the very first images that Stieglitz took of O’Keeffe, made shortly after their meeting in 1916, are several that focus on her hands, including one in which they are held before a watercolor by the artist (Greenough 459).  Stieglitz’s initial preoccupation with O’Keeffe’s hands seems natural, as they were the hands that created the drawings and paintings that had so overwhelmed him.  It is interesting to note, however, that while Stieglitz had created a large body of portraiture of the artists and photographers in his circle, their hands rarely, if ever, play as significant role in the composition.  As his relationship with O’Keeffe grew more intimate, and the portrait project began to include semi-nude and nude studies, Stieglitz never lost his fascination for her hands.  As late as 1933, Stieglitz made a number of studies solely of O’Keeffe’s hands, including the iconic image of her braceleted hand delineating the curve of the spare tire of her Ford V-8 (Greenough 1519). The hand study offered here is as much a portrait of the artist as any of the images from the series, perhaps more so than those that focus on her face or the overtly sensuous nude studies.  With this study, Stieglitz concentrates on the parts of O’Keeffe’s body that, along with her eyes, are most responsible for her art.  O’Keeffe was an eminently practical person, and her hands were a principal interface with the world; the only other Stieglitz study of O’Keeffe’s hands to come to auction (Christie’s New York, 8 October 1993, Lot 80) show’s the artist’s nimble hands working with a needle and thimble.   O’Keeffe’s hands were also capable of expressing, or suggesting, emotion, as in the image offered here, in which a particularly fraught gesture is set in relief against a black background.   The narrow dark outline that models the edge of O’Keeffe’s lower hand is due to Stieglitz’s solarization of the print.  Frequently, when working with palladium paper, Stieglitz would solarize, or overexpose, the print during processing.  In Stieglitz’s deft hands, this technique resulted in prints with greater tonal weight, and the subtle and selective reversal of tones seen in this print. In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates 4 other prints of this image: at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Doris Bry’s census accounts for two additional prints: a platinum print in a private collection, and a gelatin silver print in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.  Bry lists the date of the negative as 1918.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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Wir Sind Durch

"Wir sind durch is iconographically related to the theme of the colossal figures... the diabolical images, enlarged and deformed through the manipulation of graphic reproduction techniques." Gloria Moure in Sigmar Polke, Barcelona 2005, p. 80 Sigmar Polkes Wir Sind Durch is a material exploration of the limits of painting, bringing together disparate mediums and conceptual approaches to lay bare the process by which artists create meaning. Polke first entered the artistic discourse in 1963, after he and his former classmates Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg, and Gerhard Richter, installed an exhibition of their work in an empty butcher shop in Dusseldorf, dubbing their new commodity based, Pop art influenced style, capitalist realism. From then on, Polke consistently pushed at the visual limits of artmaking, orienting his artistic output to address the question of what it might mean for mediums to infiltrate or become one another (Mark Godfrey in From Moderne Kunst to Entartete Kunst: Polke and Abstraction in Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 19632010, 2014, p. 136). The present work, roughly bisected diagonally into dark and light, embodies this enduring thread of inquiry. The compositional structure of Wir Sind Durch contains myriad dichotomies: matte and sheen, weight and weightlessness, heaven and earth, figuration and abstraction. Taking up roughly half of the work, the upper diagonal of the canvas is an eruption of vibrant yellow drips and spray, spread out in serendipitous flecks. The pigment flares out in a lattice, as if slammed into the canvas, erasing evidence of Polkes hand, and embodying a pure act of force as mediated by spray can and recorded in paint. The more heavily worked lower diagonal is a frothy concoction, a mélange of semi-translucent acrylic, resin and spray paint. Rather than using spray paint to mediate his gesture, Polke uses a more passive process, applying pigments so that they spread out and mix, soaking into each other. When these materials come into contact, they create a cornucopia of visual effects; the lower side of the canvas is at once iridescent and also shrouded in opaque veils, as if coated in a glaze that runs from slate grey to a spectrum of aquamarines and violets all of the way to midnight black. Polke makes the resin synonymous with the support, capturing an inner glow akin to that of stained glass. This portion of the work also contains a figure, delineated with a series of white dots and lines laid on top of the pigment saturated surface. Dots pervade Polkes oeuvre, often highly condensed in the form of raster dots, which the artist transmuted into photography, video and painting in his constant blend of media and form. In the present work, Polke subverts that use, employing a form of abstracted pointillism to create an invented constellation, shifting the associations of his dots from technological processes to something more archaic and fundamental. Yet, despite this recognizable form, Polke has removed the figures function; constellations are intended to function as guides, yet in Polkes painting, the subject is anonymous and their hands, which may be displaying a gesture, are cut off. Wir Sind Durch is exemplary of the works in which Polke would, introduce ghostly outlines traced from projected images or produced with stencils, into fields dominated by spills and spreads of liquid and powdered pigment (ibid, 139). Polkes methodology draws inheritance from Max Ernsts technique of frottage, in which Ernst would rub his picture over a surface and then work into the shapes created by that random process. Polkes works differ in that his shapes and forms were ascribed irrespective of what his underlying random process rendered. In his conflation of figuration and abstraction, rather than having his surface dictate the figure, Polke formed subjects irrespective of the surface, thus reinforcing the role of the artist as the locus of meaning. An ironic distance and cynical stance towards the production of meaning pervades the essence of Wir Sind Durch. Polkes constellation suggests the supremacy of order over chaos, yet it points nowhere and is illegible. In the words of Martin Hentschel, whatever the starry heavens say to you: it could all be completely different. Therefore it is hardly surprising that Polke hones in on motifs that in themselves are concerned with the transformability of things (Martin Hentschel in Solve et Coagula in Exh. Cat., Berlin, Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Sigmar Polke, The Three Lies of Painting, 1997, p. 61). Wir Sind Durch interrogates societys system of signs, miming the gestures of meaning and set of rules that govern the semiotic vernacular of art, yet upending them by exposing their boundaries, and the rules artists follow to stay between the lines. We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier, Artistic Director from the Estate of Sigmar Polke, for the information he has kindly provided.

  • USAUSA
  • 2018-05-17
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Georgia o'keeffe (nude)

Palladium print, mounted to buff board, inscribed 'treated by Steichen' by Doris Bry in pencil on the mount, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919 This intimate, explicit study of Georgia O’Keeffe nude was one of a select group of 22 images Alfred Stieglitz gave to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1928 (see also Lots 10 and 23).  In this group, chosen by Stieglitz as his best and most representative work, were seven studies of O’Keeffe, of which this was one.  Stylistically, the cropping of the torso, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, may owe its inspiration to the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, whose work Stieglitz knew and had shown in the galleries of the Photo-Secession.  Like some of Rodin’s sculptures, the headless torso offered here, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, has a timeless, heroic quality.  Rodin, one of the most famous artists in the world at the turn of the last century, enjoyed a reputation for controversial modernism. At the urging of Edward Steichen, the galleries of the Photo-Secession had shown a group of Rodin drawings of the female nude in 1908, frankly sensual drawings that had caused a stir in the New York art world.  One of the visitors to the Rodin drawings show was the young Georgia O’Keeffe, enrolled at that time at the Art Students League in New York.  This was her first introduction to Stieglitz and his gallery, although they did not meet when she came to the exhibition, and it would be nearly ten years later before their real relationship began. In 1921, Alfred Stieglitz exhibited the present image in a major show of his own photographs at his friend Mitchell Kennerley’s Anderson Galleries.  This ground-breaking show drew record attendance—thousands of people thronged to the Park Avenue galleries in less than a month—and among the most moving, and controversial, images in the show were the more than 40 photographs from Stieglitz’s multiple portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe.  ‘Hands, feet, hands and breasts, torsos, all parts and attitudes of the human body seen with a passion of revelation, produced an astonishing effect on the multitudes who wandered in and out of the rooms,’ wrote Stieglitz’s friend Herbert Seligmann (America and Alfred Stieglitz, Garden City, 1934, p. 116).  In her biography of her great-uncle, Sue Davidson Lowe has written that the public ‘was electrified,’ and of the O’Keeffe series in particular, that ‘women who saw the prints were often moved to tears’ (Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography, New York, 1983, p. 241).  Conveying as they do both emotion and intimacy, the nude studies of O’Keeffe transcend the merely sensual. Remembering the impact of the Anderson Galleries show, and the photographs of her in particular, O’Keeffe later wrote, ‘When his photographs of me were first shown, it was in a room at the Anderson Galleries.  Several men—after looking around a while—asked Stieglitz if he would photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me.  He was very amused and laughed about it.  If they had known the close relationship he would have needed to have to photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me—I think they wouldn’t have been interested’ (Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1978, unpaginated). In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.,  a palladium-platinum print (Greenough 509) and a gelatin silver print (Greenough 510) made from this negative (OK 34 D).  Additionally, Greenough lists palladium prints at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and in a private collection; and gelatin silver prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago.  Doris Bry, in her census of prints of this image, accounts for the prints listed above, as well as an additional palladium print in a private collection.   Bry also points out that the private collection print listed by Greenough is now in the collection of the Museé d’Orsay. 

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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Series 2 No.10

Fang Lijun oil on canvas Painted in 1992-1993. Known for his depictions of rebellious bald-headed figures embodying the unique psychological state of a rising generation in modern China, Fang Lijun created Series 2 No. 10 in 1992, just as the artist was becoming critically renowned in the international art world as a leading figure of China’s new modern art movement. Responding to the trauma resulting from his having grown up during the Cultural Revolution, Fang creates works that engage with a profound sense of disenchantment and disillusionment affecting an entire generation especially following the aftermath of the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the early 1990s, Fang was named by Li Xianting, an art critic and inventor of the term “Cynical Realism,” as a key figure of the movement. (J. Supangkat, ‘China Avant-Garde and Contemporary Art,’ in Fang L.J. and A. Ochs, Fang Lijun: Life Is Now [in conjunction with Fang Lijun's Solo Exhibition at the National Gallery, Jakarta, 10 May - 18 May 2006])Though the style of Cynical Realism has been characterised by a “mix of ennui and rogue humour,” Karen Smith accentuates that what sets Fang’s paintings apart, is his work being rooted in the human condition rather than in politics. (Ben Davidson quoted by K. MacMillan, ‘Fang Lijun: the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar’ Artforum International, November 2007; K. Smith and M. Brouwer, Nine Lives: The Birth Of Avant-Garde Art In New China, 2010) His works created in 1992 in particular attracted global attention, earning him invitations to some of the most prestigious exhibitions including the 1993 and 1999 Venice Biennale and the 1994 São Paulo Biennial. Coming from a series of only eleven works, paintings from Series 2 have been collected by such key institutions as the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, and Fukuoka Art Museum, as well as by major private collectors. A work never before seen on the market, Series 2 No. 10 is from a series that very infrequently becomes available to potential collectors. Augmenting the rarity and singularity of this work, the present lot provides the only circumstance in which a painting from the much-admired 1992 series highlights the artist’s female acquaintance in the foreground as a keystone figure. Offering a plethora of visual information not present in other works from the series, this dynamic painting showcases the woman as a central figure with her palms pressed together beside her face showing a slightly provocative expression emphasised by her subtle smile and knowing eyes. With her long neck and elegantly reserved composure, she is flanked by two robust men, one laughing and the other smiling demurely, amidst a backdrop of rippling blue water dotted with three bald figures emerging from the ocean gasping for air. Modelled after the artist himself, imagery of the bald-headed figure whether yawning, grinning, or staring vacantly, have echoed throughout Fang’s works since 1989 as a symbol of popi, a term borrowed from a Chinese folk adage signifying a rogue or punk character. Critic Li Xianting examines Fang’s recurring shaved head motif in relation to Popi as “a solution towards internalised self-salvation,” a sentiment found throughout Chinese history especially during times of political restriction. (Li X.T., ‘The “Shaved Head POPI” Created by Fang Lijun,' in R. Malasch, P. Hovdenakk, and Li X.T., Fang Lijun, Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1998) Swaggering towards the viewer, a bald protagonist flamboyantly flaunts a brightly coloured and patterned swimsuit, fashion not depicted in other 1992 works, instilling not only a stark contrast to the conservative Cultural Revolution era uniforms of the past but also to the subdued blue or grey shirts donned by other characters in the series. Exclaiming cheerfully or beaming inanely, Fang’s bald-headed characters exemplify Fang’s translation of popi’s rebellious mockery into self-mockery, an emblem of personal escape from a system of meaning. The bald people swimming in Series 2 No. 10 furthermore foreshadow Fang’s acclaimed series of woodcuts created beginning in 1995 that re-investigate the imagery of the swimmer coming up for air.Though the image of the bald man lost on the seashore and avoiding eye contact with the water is a major theme in the 1992 paintings, the present lot is unlike many of its counterparts in that it reveals several figures who actually take the daring leap into the water, an audacious move that also prefigures Fang’s following blue Swimming series. Water first appears in Fang Lijun’s paintings as far back as 1984. However, Fang does not seriously engage with the topic until the 1990s during which the artist looked to the indeterminacy and malleability of the medium as a central theme in his painting. As an artist concerned with portraying humans and humanity in his work, the theme of water becomes a critical lens through which Fang views the boundlessness of human nature. “Water is very close to my understanding of human nature,” Fang asserts, it is “liquid, not rule-bound… uncertain, like human feelings. You can’t live without water… but too much water will drown you.” In the early 1990s, Fang himself was often seen swimming and experimenting with an underwater camera at the pool in the Friendship Hotel, where he lived for a period of time with his wife, and where many other artists convened. In contrast to the confrontational stance of the work created by the ’85 New Wave artists and the general idealism of the 1980s, the oblivious bald-headed figures illustrated in the present lot profoundly describe the bludgeoning sense of helplessness affecting the state of mind of Fang’s generation in China.The figures swimming in the background of Series 2 No. 10 reference both the artist’s personal interests in the leisure activity and the widely disseminated image of Mao Zedong who on July 16, 1966 took a vigorous and well-reported swim in the Yangtze River near the Wuhan bridge. This highly recognisable image of the Chairman swimming proliferated a statement implying Mao’s fearlessness and robust health—a counterattack against his critics—that also served as a call to China’s younger generation to dive into a political struggle to overthrow Mao’s opponents. (R. H. Solomon, ‘The Chairman’s Historic Swim,’ Time, September 27, 1999) What has consequently resulted from this call to action according to Fang, however, is a spiritually absent world denoted by the tsunami-like background of the present work, where the repetition of bald-headed figures in both the foreground and backdrop depict the stripping of individual identities, Fang’s visual metaphor for the Chinese people. Series 2 No. 10 illuminates what is categorised as the artist’s “second period” of works (1990-1992), characterised by Fang’s preoccupation with juxtaposing imagery that circulated in China during the 1980s, and became recognisable on a nationwide scale through the controversial River Elegy (Heshang). Imagery within the television series broadcasted the cliché of a bifurcated vision of the old China versus the modern West. In contrast to Fang’s early paintings in which figures never leave the safety of the land or the protection of the Great Wall, Series 2 No. 10 depicts a shift towards a greater sense of openness and experimentation with several figures appearing before a commanding expanse of blue sea. Although Series 2 No. 10 expresses the sense of freedom permeating the works from this period, Fang’s ambiguous narrative and enclosed composition blocking any view of the horizon ultimately captures the anxious mood of a group of people who have been forced by Deng Xiaoping’s Open-Door policy program to look beyond the Great Wall at the vast stretches of an unfamiliar world. Though the foregrounding figures appear joyful, they nevertheless turn away from the ocean while their unsettlingly cropped and enlarged bodies expose the masked apprehensions of exploring the unknown. Fang Lijun's paintings stand out amongst other works by artists from his generation as he eschews narrative altogether. Though distinctive, Fang is still considered one of the earliest proponents of the Cynical Realist school- having participated in the milestone 1989 exhibition, China/Avant-Garde hosted at the National Art Museum of China, the country’s most important arts venue, even before his graduation from the Department of Printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1993, the artist also participated in the ground-breaking exhibition, China’s New Art, Post 1989 in Hong Kong, the 45th Venice Biennale, and China/Avant-Garde in Berlin. Currently in the collection of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a related work to the present lot, Series 2 No. 2 (1991-2) furthermore made the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Fang quickly became internationally known, showing at the aforementioned international biennials and the pivotal exhibition Inside Out, curated by Gao Minglu, held jointly in New York City at the Asia Society and MoMA P.S. 1 in 1998-99. Fang Lijun has played a crucial role in the development of contemporary Chinese art, and so the study and discussion of his work will indisputably continue to have an impact on the future direction of art in China and beyond. (D. Eccher and Fang L.J., Fang Lijun: The precipice over the clouds, Milano: Charta, 2012)

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2018-05-27
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Photography

This category includes all manner of photographs and prints, from early photographs and historical images to iconic shoots, portraits, and contemporary photographic art. The lots here span the development of both photographic technology, and of photography as an art form, from their invention to the present day.