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    Sale 12151

    Bound to Fail

    8 May 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15 A

    Bruce Nauman (B. 1941)

    Henry Moore Bound to Fail

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Bruce Nauman (B. 1941)
    Henry Moore Bound to Fail
    titled and inscribed 'Henry Moore Bound to Fail (back view)' (upper left); numbered and dated '70 6/9' (lower edge)
    cast iron
    25 1/2 x 24 x 2 7/8 in. (64.8 x 61 x 7.3 cm.)
    Conceived in 1967 and executed in 1970. This work is number six from an edition of nine plus one artist's proof.


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    "So [Henry Moore] was being put down, shoved aside, and the idea I had at the time was that while it was probably true to a certain extent, they should really hang on to Henry Moore, because he really did some good work and they might need him again sometime." Bruce Nauman

    "Nauman’s choice to use his own body in his work is a simple one, he is most familiar with it and it is most accessible to him. Segments of his own body represent something larger, partial views of the body also ask the viewer to participate, to draw upon their own knowledge to complete the viewing experience. When Nauman employs body parts within his work, comparisons may be made to the work of Jasper Johns, but the use of the partial figure harks further back art historically to Rodin, Brancusi, Maillol and Giacometti." Marcia Tucker

    "Matthew Barney, Kiki Smith, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Robert Gober, Tony Oursler: none of these catch-names in contemporary art could have arrived without Nauman." Andrew Solomon

    "In three of Nauman’s most important sculptures—From Hand to Mouth, Untitled, and Henry Moore Bound to Fail [back view], all dating from 1967—one is confronted with images of the artist in states of incompletion, of constrictedness and paralysis so drastic as to imply a negation of the hand of the artist." Jane Livingston

    Credited for translating modernism into the third dimension, the temptation to regard Henry Moore as the grandfather of twentieth century sculpture is strong. Trampling the last vestiges of classicism, Moore’s early works fused Cubism with Surrealism, combined African with pre-Columbian sculpture and lead to a revolutionary landscape of forms created from animal bones, flints and stones. As with many truly revolutionary artists, Moore’s assent within the art world was at times challenging. When Henry Moore’s sculptures were first displayed, they were so shocking opponents decapitated them and daubed them with paint. In 1938, the notorious director of the Tate, J.B. Manson, declared that the British sculptor’s work would only enter the gallery over his dead body. And yet, in the postwar era of European reconstruction, Moore experienced a significant turn of fate. Emerging as Great Britain’s unchallenged representative of modern art, Moore constructed large public sculptures at a previously unheard of scale throughout Britain and in most major cities worldwide.

    However, Moore’s reputation as revolutionary did not last long; from 1960 onwards, his heirs were as eager to bury him as they were to praise him. Frustrated by their inability to emerge from their predecessor’s shadow, the younger generation of sculptors began lashing out on Moore in public. In 1967, upon Moore’s sizable donation of large-scale works to the Tate, a series of outcries and letters opposing the donation followed. Most notably was an open letter published in The Times of London on May 26th, repudiating Moore for all he stood for. The forty-one artists who signed the letter—including Moore’s former assistant Anthony Caro—cited insufficient space at the gallery for more radical work. With Moore’s status dwindling to one part figurehead and three parts punching bag, the younger generation of artists failed to recognize that it was Moore himself who had opened up the paths that he was simultaneously being credited for blocking off.

    Eliciting a strong emotional, physical and intellectual response, Bruce Nauman’s Henry Moore Bound to Fail addresses the attacks on Moore through Nauman’s own witty brand of inquiry. “[Henry Moore Bound to Fail] comes out two ways,” Nauman has explained. “It comes out ‘Henry Moore Bound to Fail,’ and just ‘bound to fail,’ which is more general. But there were several pieces that dealt with [the sculptor] Henry Moore about that time, and they had to do with the emergence of the new English sculptors, Anthony Caro and [William] Tucker and several other people. There was a lot written about them and that […] Some of them sort of bad-mouthed Henry Moore—that the way Moore made work was old-fashioned and oppressive and all the people were really held down by his importance. He kept other people from being able to do work that anyone would pay attention to. So he was being put down, shoved aside, and the idea I had at the time was that while it was probably true to a certain extent, they should really hang on to Henry Moore, because he really did some good work and they might need him again sometime” (B. Nauman, interview with L. Sciarra, “Interview with Bruce Nauman (January 1972), in J. Kraynak (ed.), Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, Cambridge, 2003, p. 159-60).
    Examining the parameters of art and the role of the artist, Nauman’s 1970 cast-iron sculpture emerges as the most iconic member of the artist’s Henry Moore “series.” Offering a highly nuanced and somewhat complex meditation on the possibilities of figuration in the emerging discourse of postmodernism, the series, which consists of four additional works—Seated Storage Capsule for H.M. Made of Metallic Plastic (1966), Seated Storage Capsule (For Henry Moore) (1966), and Light Trap for Henry Moore, numbers one and two (1967)—aims to preserve the last vestiges of Moore’s career within seemingly shrouded tombs. Through sculpture, photography and traditional modes of illustration, Nauman’s body of work readily relies not only on the figure but also, through the artist’s own use of puns and figurative language.

    A semantic contradiction between title and sculptural object, the iron edition of Henry Moore Bound to Fail originated from a plaster sculpture coated in wax of Nauman’s own headless torso and arms immobilized by a series of crisscrossing ropes extending around the artist’s lower back. In this instance, the word “bound” garners two separate meanings. The first alludes to Henry Moore. Here, “bound to fail” means “destined or likely to fail,” while the second meaning refers to the actual sculptural object in which Nauman himself is “bound” or “restrained” by rope. Dependent on both literal meaning and visual manifestation, the artist’s use of the homonym wittily emerges as a figure of speech assigned to his own truncated figure.

    Making Nauman’s Moore “series” all the more potent, minor visual similarities exist between Nauman’s response to the critical out lash against Moore and the art of Henry Moore himself. Recalling the Egyptian and Near Eastern statuary from which Moore gained his inspiration, Nauman’s large-scale works on paper focus on these same central elements of the venerated artist’s aesthetic. Emphasizing the taut shell of tightly stretched material in his drawings and the roped sweater in his sculptures, Nauman recalls any number of Moore’s draped figures. Indeed, the notion of binding or tying up runs throughout Moore’s 1930s string sculptures and—more aptly—a multitude of his drawings throughout the 1940s. In fact, Nauman was keenly aware of and had a particular affinity for Moore’s Shelter Drawings often commenting on how they conveyed the artist’s “struggle.” Built up of linear, repetitive movement, Moore’s Shelter Drawings were executed during the height of World War II in the underground shelter he and his wife were occupying with thousands of other Londoners during the Blitz. Shrouded in blankets on the cold hard floors of the dark underpasses, Moore’s Shelter Drawings are haunting images that almost directly translate into the capsulized and draped forms of Nauman’s later series, which in turn are linked to emotional or intuitive level of the artist’s “struggle.”

    However, while inextricably connected to Henry Moore, Henry Moore Bound to Fail is so much more than a response to his forebears struggles. As with most of Nauman’s most iconic sculptures, Henry Moore Bound to Fail—like Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten Inch Intervals (1966), From Hand to Mouth (1967), and Walk with Contrapposto (1968)—is the direct product of Nauman’s own anatomy and his lifelong interest in negative space.

    “The works in Nauman’s Moore series can be understood as an attempt to safeguard something seen to be threatened by historical oblivion circa 1965” explains art historian, Robert Slifkin. “Yet what precisely is that thing that these works seek to preserve? Moore’s reputation? A specific aspect of his artistic practice…? It seems safe to say that these works are clearly not monuments to the artistic greatness of Moore—in fact, Nauman even admitted in a later interview that he was ‘not particularly fond of’ Moore’s work, and beyond the possible reference to Moore’s Shelter Drawings, which Nauman admired for their ‘heavy handed quality,’ there is very little visual similarity between Nauman and Moore’s art. Rather than such direct associations, Nauman’s Moore series evokes the elder artist in the same sort of negative manner in which he evokes his own absent body in his other works from the mid-1960s. (The fact that Nauman imagined “storage capsules” both for parts of his own body and the body of Henry Moore suggest that he conceived of an affinity between Moore and himself.) Created in response to Moore’s derision and disregard by younger artists in the ‘60s, these works present the elder artist’s apparent obsolesce as a negative conceptual space whose emptiness is significant in a particularly memorial manner. That is to say: it is Moore’s absence, or better yet, his impending historical oblivion, that is summoned for in these works” (R. Slifkin, “No Man’s Bound to Fail, More,” Anglo-American Exchange in Post-War Sculpture, 1945-1975, Los Angeles, 2011, p. 69).
    Throughout Nauman’s extensive career, the body has been one of his most consistent themes. As early as 1966, Nauman began what became a life-long inquiry into self-exploration, often using his own body as the vessel for his investigations. Throughout his self-referential practice he has used casts of his face, feet and hands as the tools with which he explores what it means to be an artist. As curator Jane Livingston has explained, “In three of Nauman’s most important sculptures—From Hand to Mouth, Untitled, and Henry Moore Bound to Fail [back view], all dating from 1967—one is confronted with images of the artist in states of incompletion, of constrictedness and paralysis so drastic as to imply a negation of the hand of the artist” (J. Livingston, Bruce Nauman, Los Angeles, 1972, p. 14). In works such as these Nauman focused on the process of making by analyzing the venerable tradition of casting. This is not to say that the hand of the artist is lost within the finished product, but that the physical immobilization of the artist within the work of art has rendered some sort of paralysis within the art as though to say the artist could take the work no further. In Henry Moore Bound to Fail, Nauman casts his own back as the front of his sculpture, leaving traces of incompleteness around the torso and making no attempt to refine the finished surface. As Robert Storr explains, “…his first sculptures defy the tradition of sculpture in almost every regard. They are constructed of nonart materials, and their unorthodox and casual appearance places them at odds with the history of the medium” (R. Storr, quoted by N. Benezra, “Surveying Nauman,” in K. Halbreich & N. Benezra (eds.), Bruce Nauman, exh. cat., Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, 1994, p. 19).

    “Nauman’s choice to use his own body in his work is a simple one,” explained New Museum founder and curator Marcia Tucker, “he is most familiar with it and it is most accessible to him. Segments of his own body represent something larger, partial views of the body also ask the viewer to participate, to draw upon their own knowledge to complete the viewing experience. When Nauman employs body parts within his work, comparisons may be made to the work of Jasper Johns, but the use of the partial figure harks further back art historically to Rodin, Brancusi, Maillol and Giacometti” (M. Tucker, Bruce Nauman, Los Angeles 1972, p. 36). Indeed, Henry Moore Bound to Fail, though revolutionary as it was, emerges out of a fascinating tradition of modern sculpture. Cited as one of Henry Moore’s earliest influences, Henri Matisse’s series of Backs, created from 1903-1930 and posthumously cast in bronze in 1955, visually serve as an important predecessor for Nauman’s work. Bifurcated down the center of the female form, Back III begins to break down the traditional composition of its earlier versions, paving the way for artist’s like Henry Moore and Bruce Nauman’s more abstracted investigations of the figure.

    As much as Henry Moore Bound to Fail is a product of the history of art, its maker has also paved away for many contemporary artists who have taken various cues from Nauman. Declared “the best—the essential—American artist of the last quarter-century” by art critic Peter Schjeldahl, Nauman’s innovative, provocative, and highly conceptual oeuvre for the first time dared to ask important questions about the nature of the creative act (P. Schjeldahl quoted in C. Tomkins, “Western Disturbances: Bruce Nauman’s Singular Influence,” New Yorker, 1 June 2009, p. 73). As Andrew Solomon wrote in a 1995 article in Times Magazine, “Matthew Barney, Kiki Smith, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Robert Gober, Tony Oursler: none of these catch-names in contemporary art could have arrived without Nauman” (A. Solomon, quoted in C. Tomkins, “Western Disturbances: Bruce Nauman’s Singular Influence,” New Yorker, 1 June 2009, p. 67). From this premise the seminal artist has expanded the field of sculptural practice, mixing sculpture and performance to make avant-garde work that is deeply felt.

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    Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York
    Tom Patchett, Los Angeles
    Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 1 November 1994, lot 42
    Anthony D'Offay, London
    Marcel Brient, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Literature

    R. Pincus-Witten, "Bruce Nauman: Another Kind of Reasoning," Artforum, February 1972 (wax version illustrated).
    B. Caroir, “Über den Subjektivismus bei Bruce Nauman,” Das Kunstwerk, September 1973, pp. 7 and 10 (another example illustrated).
    J. Stroud, "Museum Sculpture Show", St. Louis Post Dispatch, 2 July 1975 (another example illustrated).
    E. Billeter, Leben mit Zeitgenossen: Die Sammlung der Emanuel Hoffman-Stiffung, Basel, 1980, p. 337 (another example illustrated).
    P. Schjeldahl, Art of our Time: The Saatchi Collection, vol. 1, London and New York, 1984, p. 8, no. 99, (another example illustrated in color).
    N. Serota, J.C. Ammann and S. Pagé, Bruce Nauman, Paris, 1986, p. 15 (wax version illustrated).
    C. van Bruggen, Bruce Nauman, New York, 1988, pp. 147 and 300 (another example illustrated in color).
    A. Hindry, Claude Berri meets Leo Castelli, Paris, 1990, pl. LXXXV (wax version illustrated).
    L. Vachtova, "Bruce Nauman: Der Korper als Kunststuck," Kunstforum International, vol. 119, Spring 1992, p. 139 (another example illustrated in color).
    S. Brundage, ed., Bruce Nauman: 25 Years Leo Castelli, New York, 1994, p. 2 and color plates page (wax version illustrated in color).
    J. Simon, et al., eds., Bruce Nauman: exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné, Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 1994, p. 246, no. 181 (another example illustrated).
    P. Bidaine, ed., Bruce Nauman, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1998, p. 109 (another example illustrated).
    B. Von Bismarck, Bruce Nauman: The True Artist, Bonn, 1998, pp. 42, 43 and 45 (wax version illustrated).
    A. M. Adam, "Review of Bruce Nauman at Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York," ArtNews, vol. 102, no. 2, February 2003, p. 124 (another example illustrated).
    E. Booth-Clibborn, ed., The History of the Saatchi Gallery, London, 2011, pp. 216-217 (another example illustrated in color).
    R. Slifkin, "Now Man's Bound to Fail, More," October, no. 135, Winter 2011, pp. 63-71, fig .3 (wax version illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Bruce Nauman, January-February 1968, n.p., no. 35 (wax version exhibited).
    Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Documenta IV, June-October 1968 (wax version exhibited).
    Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University and Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Modern Painting, Drawing and Sculpture Collected by Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., November 1971-March 1972, p. 491, no. 202 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Kunsthalle Bern; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; Milan, Palazzo Reale; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972, December 1972-July 1974, pp. 33, 77 and 158, nos. 29 and 30 (wax version and another example exhibited and illustrated).
    Saint Louis Art Museum, 20th Century Sculpture from the Collections of The Saint Louis Art Museum, July-August 1975 (another example exhibited).
    Memphis, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, American Masters of the Sixties and Seventies: Selections from the Collection of Jan and Ronald K. Greenberg, December 1978, p. 22 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    Zürich, Halle für Internationale neue Kunst, Bruce Nauman, November 1980-February 1981, pp. 9 and 25 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    Cologne, Museen der Stadt, Westkunst: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, May-August 1981, no. 752 (wax version exhibited).
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, '60-'80: attitudes concepts images, April-June 1982, p. 176, no. 2 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    New York, CDS Gallery, Artists Choose Artists III, May-June 1984, pp. 18-19 and 24 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Transformation in Sculpture: Four Decades of American and European Art, November 1985-February 1986, p. 213, no. 149 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    Stamford, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Affiliations: Recent Sculpture and Its Antecedents, June-August 1985, n. p. (another example exhibited and illustrated).
    London, Saatchi Collection, Bruce Nauman, Robert Mangold, April-October 1989 (another example exhibited).
    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, American Masters of the 60's: Early & Late Works, May-June 1990, p. 60 (wax version exhibited and illustrated in color).
    Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and New York, Museum of Modern Art, Bruce Nauman, November 1993-May 1995, pp. 24, 119 and 212, pl. 11 (wax version exhibited and illustrated) and in Museum of Modern Art brochure, p. 5, no. 10 (illustrated).
    London, Tate Gallery; Kunsthalle Tu¨bingen; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Wu¨rttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart; Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Kunsthalle Hamburg and Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, The Froehlich Foundation: German and American Art from Beuys and Warhol, May 1996-August 1997, pp. 165 and 257, cat. 136 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Cities Collect, September 2000-January 2001 (wax version exhibited).
    Indianapolis Museum of Art and New Orleans Museum of Art, Crossroads of American Sculpture, October 2000-September 2001, pp. 216-217 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
    New York, Van de Weghe Fine Art, Bruce Nauman: Neons Sculptures Drawings, October-December 2002, pp. 41 and 88 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
    New York, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Comparing Two Works: John Chamberlain, Bruce Nauman, February-March 2006.
    Venice, Palazzo Grassi, "Where Are We Going?" Selections from the François Pinault Collection, April-October 2006, p. 191 (wax version exhibited and illustrated in color).
    Tate Liverpool and Naples, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Bruce Nauman: Make Me Think Me, May 2006-January 2007, pp. 49 and 92 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
    Saint Louis, Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Portrait/Homage/Embodiment, November 2006-June 2007 (another example exhibited).
    Berkeley Art Museum, University of California; Turin, Castello de Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea and Houston, Menil Collection, A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s, January 2007-January 2008, pp. 49, 58, 113-114 and 139 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
    Paris, Galerie Kreo, Ensemble, October-November 2012.


    Post Lot Text

    Examples from the edition are in the collections of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Saint Louis Art Museum; Schaffhausen, Hallen für Neue Kunst; Zürich, Daros Collection; Basel, Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation; Stuttgart, Froehlich Collection and Saint Louis, Pulitzer Arts Foundation.