• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 1106

    Post-War and Contemporary Art (Evening Auction)

    13 February 2013, London, King Street

  • Lot 10

    Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)

    Aurora

    Price Realised  

    Marlene Dumas (b. 1953)
    Aurora
    signed, titled and dated 'M DUMAS Aurora 2001' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    90½ x 23¾in. (229.9 x 60.3cm.)
    Painted in 2001


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    'The public display of nudity has always been one of my main artistic interests, as well as the reasons given to justify or banish it' (M. Dumas, quoted in A. Corbijn and M. Dumas Stripping Girls, exh. cat., Theater Institut Nederland, Amsterdam, 2000, unpaged).


    'I don't do straight lines, but I've come to realize that sporadically, over the years, bar-like structures emerge every time I try to express intense feelings of frustration regarding the limitation of art and life' (M. Dumas, quoted in I. Bonacossa, 'Update', D. van den Boogerd, et. al. (eds.) Marlene Dumas, London 2009, p. 173).


    Painted in 2001, the same year as Marlene Dumas' solo exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris and the New Museum, New York, Aurora is one of the artist's most impressive and powerfully arresting canvases. Marking a return to the impressive format of Dumas' celebrated Magdalenes series presented at the 1995 Venice Biennale, the towering female figure extends to the very borders of a larger than life-size canvas. Created for the artist's celebrated series All is Fair in Love and War exhibition the year following her well-known Stripping Girls series, here the ecdysiast is imprisoned and the female form here becomes the site of political contention.

    A profound exploration of the female condition and sexuality, Aurora forms part of Dumas' continued dialogue championing the relevance of painting and its ability to communicate social and political ideas. Through her focus on the human figure, Dumas has used the female nude as a vehicle to address questions of gender, sexuality, and inequality. As the artist states, 'the public display of nudity has always been one of my main artistic interests, as well as the reasons given to justify or banish it' (M. Dumas, quoted in A. Corbijn and M. Dumas Stripping Girls, exh. cat., Theater Institut Nederland, Amsterdam, 2000, unpaged).

    The haunting figure of Aurora emerges from the artist's delicate rendering of paint, stripped nearly bare, her hand extending through her barred confines. Drawing its name from the mythological Roman goddess of dawn Aurora appears in washes of sky blues, sunlight yellows, and soft pinks. Dissolving into the colours of the daylight, the sheer materiality of the paint imparts an ethereal quality to the work. Confined within the rigid geometry of her prison, the bars seem to both frame and cut the body. 'I don't do straight lines,' Dumas emphasises, 'but I've come to realize that sporadically, over the years, bar-like structures emerge every time I try to express intense feelings of frustration regarding the limitation of art and life' (M. Dumas, quoted in I. Bonacossa, 'Update', D. van den Boogerd et. al. (ed.), Marlene Dumas, London 2009, p. 173). The horizontal bars segment the body at the eyes, chest and pelvis, the expressionist figure is castrated and segmented. Barely recognisable, her face is obscured by the crossbar concealing her identity, while her body remains raw and exposed.

    Operating as an unconventional 'portrait', the female form in Aurora departs from any direct source through the artist's expressionistic use of paint, evoking an emotional state of mind rather than representing an actual person. Working from the subject matter found in her collection of source imagery, Dumas' mediation reinvests Aurora's sexual image with elements of secrecy and promise, and restores its eroticism and desire. The artist's subtle references and the fundamental significance of her imagery, along with her idiosyncratic painting technique, make this piece one of the finest syntheses of Dumas' artistic influences, and a rare example of blurred boundaries between the artist and her subject matter. In this way, Aurora suggests a full spectrum of meanings, emanating desire and sexuality, tenderness and violence, the divine ethereal being and the mortal fallen from grace.

    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.
    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Jack Tilton & Anna Kustera Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001.


    Literature

    Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 139-140).
    D. van den Boogerd, B. Bloom, M. Casadio & I. Bonacossa, Marlene Dumas, London 2009 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 173).


    Exhibited

    New York, Jack Tilton & Anna Kustera Gallery, All is Fair in Love and War, 2001.