• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 7758

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    16 October 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 20

    Juan Muñoz (1953-2001)

    Chino con peto (Chinese Figure with Overalls)

    Price Realised  


    Juan Muñoz (1953-2001)
    Chino con peto (Chinese Figure with Overalls)
    57½ x 32½ x 17in. (146 x 82.5 x 43.4cm.)
    Executed in 2001, this work is number two from an edition of two plus one artist proof

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    A rare bronze, Juan Muñoz's Chino con peto dates from 2001, the same year of his celebrated installation in the Turbine Hall at London's Tate Modern. Chino con peto stands alone, encapsulating that strange barrier of communication that so fascinated Muñoz and fuelled so much of his work. The figure, grinning while raising an arm as though to shake someone's hand despite his own lack of hands or feet, engages the viewer in an impossible dialogue. Muñoz has deliberately tapped into a rich vein of the uncanny with this sculpture of a man lacking his extremities, those points of contact and intervention with the outside world. The scale of the figure, almost lifesize yet somehow reduced, is large enough to create a tension, an atmosphere, a presence which the artist himself discussed as a 'humming.' It demands our attention and interaction, and yet from the beginning, any promise of interaction has been derailed by the artist himself.

    Muñoz's work explored these notions extensively, even before he had begun creating what he would come to term his 'Chinese figures' in the mid-1990s. Even the artist's selection of a Belgian Art Nouveau head for these sculptures assisted him in creating this sense of a static dumbshow. Using the same bust as the origin for these heads resulted in an unnerving sameness, while he selected this head as a source because he felt its features had a certain inscrutability. But it is a testimony to Muñoz's skill in creating a psychological tension, even a sense of fragmented narrative, through his work that that inscrutability, the lack of true communication in Chino con peto, is itself strangely eloquent as a reflection of the human condition. 'They tell you that they wish they could do more than they do,' he said of his sculptures. 'I don't think that my figures are so mute. I think that they are trying to articulate things' (Muñoz, quoted in P. Schimmel, 'An Interview with Juan Muñoz', pp. 145-50, N. Benezra et al., Juan Muñoz, exh.cat., Washington, D.C. & Chicago, 2001, p. 147).

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    A gift from the artist to the present owner.