• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11960

    First Open | London

    14 April 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 46

    Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973)

    Lampe-Fesses

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973)
    Lampe-Fesses
    coloured polyester resin, bulb, wiring and metal
    11 x 13 x 3 ½in. (28 x 33 x 9cm.)
    Executed in 1970


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    ‘My gesture is addressed to the human body, “that complete erogenous zone”. To its most vague and ephemeral sensations. I want to exalt the ephemeral in the folds of our body, in the traces of our passage. Through casts of the body I try to fix the fleeting moments of life, its paradoxes and absurdity, in transparent polyester ... I am convinced that all of the manifestation of the ephemeral the human body is the most vulnerable, the only source of all joy, all suffering and all truth, because of its essential nudity, as inevitable as it is inadmissible on any conscious level’ (A. Szapocznikow)

    Executed in 1970, Lampe-fesses is a captivating example of Alina Szapocznikow’s pioneering polyester casts of the human body. With its tinted, translucent shell subtly illuminated from within, the work’s ethereal, glowing evocation of life is held in tension with its status as a decorative piece of interior lighting. Frequently laden with sexual charge, Szapocznikow’s sculptures transform the natural curves and contours of human body parts – mouths, breasts, buttocks - into ubiquitous everyday items such as lamps and ashtrays. Drawing on the legacy of Surrealism and the Pop-infected strains of Nouveau Réalisme – a movement with which she came to be associated during her time in Paris in the 1960s – Szapocznikow’s seemingly playful objects are underpinned by a dark existentialist thread. Her casts document the impermanence of human flesh as a source of trauma, pain and eroticism: a transient site upon which the tragedies, absurdities and complexities of life are inscribed. As the artist has explained, ‘My gesture is addressed to the human body, “that complete erogenous zone”. To its most vague and ephemeral sensations. I want to exalt the ephemeral in the folds of our body, in the traces of our passage. Through casts of the body I try to fix the fleeting moments of life, its paradoxes and absurdity, in transparent polyester ... I am convinced that all of the manifestation of the ephemeral the human body is the most vulnerable, the only source of all joy, all suffering and all truth, because of its essential nudity, as inevitable as it is inadmissible on any conscious level’ (A. Szapocznikow, quoted in Szapocznikow Sculpture Undone 1955-1972, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012-2013, p. 28).

    Born in Kalisz, Poland in 1926, Szapocznikow’s fascination with the fragility of life has its roots in her own traumatic past. Her father and brother died before the outbreak of the Second World War, during which she worked as a nurse in the Jewish ghettos of Pabianice and Lódz, before being transferred to a series of different concentration camps with her mother. Having survived the Holocaust, she trained as a sculptor, initially working in bronze and stone to create casts of her breasts, stomach and legs. In 1963, she became one of the frst artists to fully exploit the properties of polyester and polyurethane: revolutionary sculptural materials that imbued her work with a poignant sense of vulnerability. Glowing from within, works such as Lampe-fesses hover before the viewer like candle-lit memorials: shrines to the visceral yet ultimately fleeting substance of flesh. In 1968, the artist was diagnosed with cancer, giving rise to a series of ‘tumour’ sculptures in mixed media, and lending a new degree of poignancy to her meditations on mortality. Szapocznikow’s career was cut short by her untimely death in 1973 at the age of just 47. She has since come to be recognised as one of the leading female artists of her generation, and one of the first sculptors in post-War Poland to truly confront the uncertainty of the human condition. Between 2012 and 2013, her work was celebrated in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    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

    Collection of Pierre and Catherine Descargues (gift from the artist).
    Their sale, Bukowskis Helsinki, 12 November, 2012, lot 560.
    Private Collection, France.


    Exhibited

    Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama Triennale, 2014.
    Berlin, Schinkel Pavilion, Paul McCarthy and Them, 2015.