Phillips 20th Century to Now sale is next Friday 30th June in London. The auction is comprised of 116 lots and, to help you navigate the selection on offer, Leonor de Osma, Head of Sale, selects her six top picks.
Elizabeth Peyton, an American artist known for her intimate and luminous portraits, believes that individuals capture the essence of their time through their faces. Peyton rejects traditional naturalistic depictions and instead focuses on psyche and character. The artist has exhibited her work at prestigious institutions like the Royal Academy in London and the New Museum in New York. Her 2019-2020 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London was particularly notable as she integrated her contemporary works with historic paintings spanning from the Tudor period to the Victorian era. Peyton’s portraits of Prince Harry can be found at various renowned museums, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the present work, Prince Harry, September 1998, Peyton portrays the young prince on his first day at Eton, highlighting his vulnerability and the private moment that was thrust into the public eye. Through her art, Peyton humanizes and restores intimacy to widely circulated images.
Sahara Longe, a British artist based in London, creates vibrant and large-scale portraits that delve into the enigmatic aspects of human psychology within social interactions. Trained in a Florentine studio, following the legacy of portrait painters like John Singer Sargent, Longe incorporates techniques from lost Old Master painting methods, utilizing glazes and raw pigments. In her work Three Graces Longe appropriates the mythological narrative that has been explored by artists from Botticelli to Raphael, focusing on the concept of idealized beauty. Drawing inspiration from Rubens’ Three Graces Longe incorporates the faces of her friends and mother through the use of photographs. Longe’s female figures exhibit a captivating rhythm, with textured skin, harmonious curves, and a cohesive composition.
Sarah Lucas, a prominent figure of the Young British Artists generation that includes Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Gary Hume, resides, and works in London. In 2023/2024, Tate Britain will host a significant retrospective of Lucas’s art, showcasing her diverse practice encompassing sculpture, installation, and photography. Lucas’ works can be found in esteemed collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. As a feminist artist, Lucas employs raunchy and dark humor, irony, and sexual innuendos to explore English culture, addressing sexual and psychological tensions while satirizing misogynistic norms prevalent in everyday life, tabloids, and pornography. She frequently incorporates found objects in her sculptures and draws inspiration from Marcel Duchamp. The present work, SOMEONE DROPPED A BOMB ON ME, features fleshy, tubular forms crafted from stuffed tights and wire, arranged provocatively to symbolize sexualized female limbs. The twisting and curving shapes, sometimes intertwining, evoke an intimate embrace. This work forms part of Lucas’s ‘Bunny’ series, which began in 1997, in which she experimented with stuffed stockings.
Lucio Fontana was an early pioneer in making art into performance. He described his cuts as ‘a philosophical statement, an act of faith in the infinite, an affirmation of spirituality’. Concetto Spaziale Attese is a striking representation of his renowned series of works, executed in 1967 at the height of Fontana’s prolific career, one year after Fontana’s groundbreaking all-white installation Ambiente Spaziale at the Venice Biennale and one year before his death. This work represents the mature expression of Fontana’s radical aesthetic that evolved from the staccato perforations of his Buchi to the elegant precision of the Tagli works, first introduced towards the end of 1958. Through precise vertical incisions on the pristine white canvas, Fontana disrupts traditional pictorial norms and transcends the two-dimensional plane, integrating space, time, color, and movement. Each incision showcases the artist’s skill and confidence, capturing the dynamic motion of his hand across the canvas with a delicate yet powerful energy.
Wall Yellow Pale belongs to Sean Scully’s renowned Wall of Light Series and is the first of his oil on copper works to be offered at auction. Created in 2016, this piece marks the artist’s exploration of metals and their interaction with paint. Influenced by the vibrant colors he encountered during a trip to Morocco in 1969, Scully incorporated broad horizontal stripes and deep earth tones into his mature style. By painting directly onto copper, his characteristic brick-like forms acquire a new sensory dimension, with subtle tonal shifts as the paint interacts with the reflective metal surface. Drawing inspiration from the modernist grid of Piet Mondrian and the emotive impact of color explored by Mark Rothko, Scully blends the traditions of European modernism and American post-war abstraction. Works from the Wall of Light Series were prominently displayed in the definitive exhibition Sean Scully: Wall of Light at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006-2007. Notably, in 2014, Scully became the first Western artist to have a large-scale retrospective in China.
Maurizio Cattelan, born in 1960 in Padua, Italy, initially pursued a career in furniture making before transitioning to art. He currently resides and works between Milan, Italy, and New York. Cattelan is renowned for his distinctive blend of dark humor and realistic sculpture, often featuring celebrities, historical figures, or taxidermied animals in absurd and comedic scenarios. In 2011, he was the focus of a retrospective titled All at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. One of his notable works is Spermini, consisting of 500 painted latex masks of the artist, initially exhibited together in 1997 and later divided into various groupings. This work is a perfect, sarcastically titled, example of Cattelan’s examination into the possibilities of self-portraiture, a genre he began exploring during the second half of the 90s.
Phillips, 20th Century to Now, 30th June 2023, phillips.com/auctions