• The Leslie Waddington Collecti auction at Christies

    Sale 14175

    The Leslie Waddington Collection

    4 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 4

    Barry Flanagan (1941-2009)

    Acrobats

    Estimate

    Barry Flanagan (1941-2009)
    Acrobats
    bronze with a green and brown patina
    58¾ x 16½ x 18 in. (149.2 x 42 x 45.7 cm.)
    Conceived in 1981, this work is artist's cast number one from an edition of three plus three artist's casts


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    ‘I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a surrogate or as a vehicle to entertain in a way’ - B. Flanagan

    Acrobats, 1981 is one of Barry Flanagan’s iconic hare sculptures, which typified his figurative work from 1979 onwards. In 1981 Waddington Galleries held the first exhibition of Flanagan’s bronzes, in which a number of his hare sculptures were shown, including Acrobats. Regarded as Flanagan’s most recognisable motif, the hare has become synonymous with his artistic practice, as with the reclining figure for Henry Moore or the attenuated man for Alberto Giacometti. Inspired by his memory of a hare that he recalled bounding majestically across the Sussex Downs in 1979, Flanagan began to look to a more figurative aesthetic, which moved away from his conceptual works of the 1960s. Leaving behind his more unconventional materials, such as sand and rope, Flanagan began to work in bronze, delineating a series of animal sculptures in this material, such as horses, elephants, dogs and most importantly the hare, which he first introduced into his oeuvre with Leaping Hare, 1979.

    One of the most celebrated qualities of Flanagan’s hare sculptures is their wonderful ability to imbue a sense of wit, humour and playfulness, with the artist often manipulating their anthropomorphic characters into sporting roles as they wrestle, box or dance. Here Flanagan has cast them in the character of acrobats, with one hare acrobatically balanced on top of the other, their legs outstretched as they grasp on to each other by their paws. Modelled into lean, sinuous forms, Flanagan succeeds in creating an innate sense of dynamism and movement, which seems to flow through the work. This is highlighted by the balancing hare’s outstretched hind legs, which conveys a sense of unbound freedom and vitality. This celebration of the hare and its qualities of liberty are echoed by Paul Levy: ‘nothing is more free, vital, spontaneous and alive – from Aesop’s hare outrun by the tortoise to Bugs Bunny – than a capering hare. In France and most of Central Europe, it is the hare that lays eggs at Easter and so promises renewal. In fact, Flanagan’s hares do not carry much of this historic symbolic freight; they simply frolic freely and expressively. They don’t symbolise life, they live it.’ (P. Levy, quoted in Barry Flanagan: Linear Sculptures in Bronze and Stone Carvings, exh. cat., London, Waddington Galleries, 2004).

    In the present work Flanagan places his hares in the role of acrobats, their expressions and characteristics relating more to human form than that of the animal. He described, ‘I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a surrogate or as a vehicle to entertain in a way. The abstract realm that sculpture somehow demands is a very awkward way to work, so I abstract myself from the human figure, choosing the hare to behave as a human occasionally’ (Flanagan, quoted in E. Juncosa (ed.), Barry Flanagan: Sculptures 1965-2005, exh. cat., Dublin, Museum of Art and City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, 2006, p. 65). By choosing his hare to behave as a ‘human’, Flanagan transcends the constraints of academicism, freeing his work from immediate sentiment or sexuality, allowing his hares to become both a personification of, and a symbol for, humanity. Tim Hilton explains, ‘The hare is used to make a connection between the particular and the numinous. It can be thought of as personal, or a person: or as a symbol for a person; or a symbol for some universal principle’ (T. Hilton, ‘Less a slave of other people’s thinking…’, in Barry Flanagan Sculpture, exh. cat., London, British Council, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1983, p. 14).

    What was of fundamental significance to Flanagan was the rich mythology of the hare. In 1979 Flanagan discovered the book The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thompson, which explored the mythological attributes of the hare throughout history, listing the transcultural and historically symbolic implications of the animal. It told of the hare’s connotations to fertility, liberty, cleverness, deceit and triumph, recording that in Egyptian mythology the hieroglyph ‘Wn’, represented by a hare on top of a single blue-green ripple, meant to ‘exist’, while in Chinese tradition the Moon Hare holds a pestle and mortar, in which it mixes an elixir of immortality. The role of ‘The Hare as Trickster’, the title of one of Ewart’s chapters, found particular resonance with the artist who delighted in the mercurial and mischievous attributes of the hare, as represented in Acrobats. Michael Compton explains that by drawing on these ancient symbols Flanagan found a deeper connection not only with his subject but with his audience, he stated, ‘While he frequently draws on or refers to the more contemporary conventions in art, the effect of his work is to touch the most basic and ancient, physiological and psychological resonances in his viewers. His works slump, balance and dance in ways that we recognize profoundly within ourselves’ (M. Compton, ‘A Developing Practice’, in Barry Flanagan: Recent Sculpture, exh. cat., New York, Pace Gallery, 1983, p. 16).

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by Leslie Waddington circa 1981.


    Literature

    T. Hilton and M. Compton, Barry Flanagan: Sculpture, London, 1982, fig. 67 (illustrated, pp. 64 and 92; installation view illustrated in colour, p. 53).
    R. Fuchs (intro.), Documenta 7, Vol. 2, exh. cat., Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Neue Galerie, 1982, (illustrated, p. 122).
    Barry Flanagan, exh. cat., Madrid, British Council, Fundación "la Caixa", 1993 (another cast illustrated, p. 29).
    E. Juncosa (ed.), Barry Flanagan: Sculpture 1965-2005, exh. cat., Dublin, Museum of Modern Art and City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, 2006 (installation view illustrated, pp.74 and 77).
    Barry Flanagan: Sculptures 2001-2008, exh. cat., London, Waddington Galleries, 2008, no. 14 (another cast illustrated, p. 41).
    C. Wallis and A. Wilson (eds.), Barry Flanagan: Early Works 1965-1982, exh. cat., London, Tate Gallery, September 2011 - January 2012 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 30; installation view illustrated, p. 152).


    Exhibited

    London, Waddington Galleries, Barry Flanagan: Sculptures in bronze 1980-1981, December 1981, not numbered (illustrated, p. 28).
    Tokyo, British Council, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Aspects of British Art Today, February - April 1982, no. 75 (illustrated, p. 111). This exhibition travelled to Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, April - May 1982; Osaka, National Museum of Art, June - July 1982; Fukuoka, Fukuoka Art Museum, August 1982; and Sapporo, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, September - October 1982.
    Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Zeitgeist: Internationale Kunstausstellung, October - December 1982, no. 79 (illustrated, p. 115).
    Venice, British Council, British Pavilion, XXXX Venice Biennale, Barry Flanagan: Stone and Bronze Sculptures, June - September 1982, no. 24. This exhibition travelled to Krefeld, Museum Haus Esters, October - December 1982; and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, January - February 1983.
    Paris, British Council, Centre Georges Pompidou, Barry Flanagan Sculptures, March - May 1983, not numbered (illustrated, p. 64).
    Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Dialog, September - October 1985, not numbered (illustrated, p. 67).
    London, Waddington Custot Galleries, Two Pataphysicians: Flanagan - Miró, October - November 2014, no. 15 (illustrated in colour, p. 47).