• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 12243

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    6 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 9

    Günther Förg (1952-2013)

    Untitled

    Estimate

    Günther Förg (1952-2013)
    Untitled
    acrylic on lead mounted on wood
    78¾ x 118 1/8in. (200 x 300cm.)
    Executed in 1988


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    ‘Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and an order that for them had been lost ... For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more’
    —G. FÖRG

    ‘[Lead] already has a presence. Sometimes I would leave the lead in the rain and you would get these amazing oxidised grounds, quite beautiful’
    —G. FÖRG

    ‘The reason for the continued importance of Förg’s oeuvre becomes clear. The evolution of his direct, subjective engagement with the aesthetic of the sublime – conducted without the fear of stereotypical taboos – oscillates between appropriation and homage, yet Förg does so without ironic quotations or other such cheap distancing techniques. Instead, he throws mythical ballast overboard and appropriates picture-making strategies in a way that makes them look new’
    —A. SCHLAEGEL

    Executed in 1988, Günther Förg’s Untitled is a monumental example of the artist’s early lead paintings. Two elegant bands of deep cerulean blue bracket a vast field of naked lead, weathered and scarred by atmospheric exposure. With its horizontal orientation – rare in comparison to the vertical works that populate Förg’s oeuvre – its shimmering ground evokes a sprawling abstract landscape. Its geometric planar divisions conjure distant horizons: the meeting points between sea and land, earth and sky. Initiated in the 1980s, Förg’s lead paintings represent the most important strand of his practice, fundamentally challenging the boundaries between artwork and object. ‘I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness,’ he explains; ‘it gives the colour a different density and weight ... with the normal canvas you often have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something - its scratches, scrapes’ (G. Förg, quoted in D. Ryan, Talking Painting, Karlsruhe 1997, www.david-ryan.co.uk/Gunther0Forg [accessed 3 September 2016]). Oxidised naturally by the elements, the lead generates its own abstract depths, streaked with iridescent patterns that operate in mesmeric counterpoint to the rigid strips of paint. Volatile and unpredictable, the medium occupies a central position within Förg’s artistic mission: namely, to rehabilate abstraction as a means of interrogating form and material in their most pure and primal states. Bristling with raw, elemental power, the present work speaks directly to this cause.

    Despite their transcendental allusions to the natural world, works such as Untitled ultimately stand apart from metaphysical concerns. Though reminiscent of Barnett Newman’s ‘zips’ and Mark Rothko’s quivering colour fields, these works were conceived in opposition to the spiritual claims of American Abstract Expressionism. ‘Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and an order that for them had been lost’, the artist has explained. ‘For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more’ (G. Förg, quoted in Günther Förg: Painting / Sculpture / Installation, exh. cat. Newport Beach, 1989, p. 6). Operating in critical dialogue with his modernist forebears, Förg believed that abstraction was no longer a language that needed to be defended, sublimated and theorised; rather, it had become one mode of picture-making among many others. As Andreas Schlaegel observes, ‘The evolution of his direct, subjective engagement with the aesthetic of the sublime – conducted without the fear of stereotypical taboos – oscillates between appropriation and homage, yet Förg does so without ironic quotations or other such cheap distancing techniques. Instead, he throws mythical ballast overboard and appropriates picture-making strategies in a way that makes them look new’ (A. Schlaegel, quoted in B. Weber, ‘Günther Förg, German Artist Who Made Modernism His Theme, Dies at 61’, New York Times, 18 December 2013). In the swirling, inscrutable depths of Untitled, Förg frees abstraction from its historical baggage, reconfiguring the picture plane as a liberated zone of unfettered material expression.

    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

    Galerie Pierre Huber, Geneva.
    Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1988).
    Anon. sale, Christie's London, 5 February 2004, lot 193.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Exhibited

    Geneva, Galerie Pierre Huber, Gunther Förg, 1988.


    Post Lot Text

    This work is unsigned, and is registered in the artist’s archives under the archive number WVF.88.B.0430. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
    We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided.