• Post-War & Contemporary Evenin auction at Christies

    Sale 2219

    Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

    10 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 37

    John Chamberlain (b. 1927)


    Price Realised  


    John Chamberlain (b. 1927)
    painted and chromium-plated steel
    35 x 37 x 29 in. (89 x 94 x 73.5 cm.)
    Executed in 1963.

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    Ruby-Ruby is part of an important part of a body of work Chamberlain began in 1960 when he started producing wall mounted pieces. In moving his pieces from the floor to the vertical plane he was continuing his efforts to redefine sculpture and also trying to purge his work of the flatness and the pictorial. He achieves this by reclaiming the space traditionally reserved for painting and using it as the site for his three dimensional works that reassessed the obsession with planarity of much of the art being produced at the time. At the same time, his sculpture was a dynamic extension of Abstract Expressionism, combining David Smith's welded technique with the explosive quality of de Kooning's gestural brushstroke.

    Ruby-Ruby is also an outstanding example of another of Chamberlain's key philosophies -- trying to revive the use of color in sculpture, which had been missing since the early Renaissance. The deep, rich red contrasting with a flash of cream is a perfect example of why Chamberlain was attracted to using colored pieces of scrap metal, allowing as it does for the color to be automatically integrated into the work and giving clear visual evidence of each part's interaction with the others.

    Having spent much of his early career working with pre-fabricated metal, in the late 1950s Chamberlain started to draw on the spirit of Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades and began using materials he found around him. He appropriated panels from cars, painted metal signs and other pieces of steel discarded by a growing consumer society to twist, mould and fold into graceful, curvelinear and flowing forms that replaced the flat, rectilinear forms by the likes of David Smith that dominated much of the contemporary sculpture at the time.

    Exhibited in seminal early exhibitions in the 1960s, including a one person show at Ileana Sonnabend in Paris in 1964, as well as the artist's landmark Guggenheim retrospective in 1971, Ruby Ruby is a defining example of Chamberlain's wall sculptures.


    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Allan Stone Gallery, New York
    Private collection, Bethesda, 1974
    Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 7 May 1992, lot 300

    Pre-Lot Text



    John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., New York, 1971, p. 69 (illustrated).
    J. Sylvester, John Chamberlain: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures, 1954-1985, New York, 1986, p. 76, no. 163 (illustrated).


    London, Robert Fraser Gallery, John Chamberlain and Richard Stankiewicz, May-June 1963.
    Paris, Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, John Chamberlain, April-May 1964, (illustrated).
    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Summer Group Exhibition, 1972.