‘ Walking, in particular drifting, or strolling, is already – within the speed culture of our time – a kind of resistance … It’s a state where you can be both alert to all that happens in your peripheral vision and hearing, and yet totally lost in your thought process.’
– Francis Alÿs
Christie’s is delighted to present a notable selection of international art from a Distinguished Contemporary Collection. Spanning across our upcoming Post-War and Contemporary auctions in London, New York and Paris, the extensive grouping offers a diverse wealth of works suited to all aesthetic palates. With nearly forty works from fifteen different and highly distinguished artists including Francis Alÿs, Gregor Schneider, Sterling Ruby and Maurizio Cattelan, the collection houses an eclectic compendium of media from oil painting and works on paper, to sculpture, prints and photography.
The great virtuoso of this collection is Alÿs. A seminal artist who has received outstanding international acclaim, Alÿs is one of the most important living contemporary artists of our time. He has recently been the subject of a number of solo exhibitions including at David Zwirner London in 2016, and the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, where his Fabiola Project is currently on display until 28 October 2018. Encompassing painting, sculpture, installation, video, drawing and performance art, his prolific oeuvre displays a versatile dexterity across a wide and extensive range of media. His art engages with the everyday in unique and profound ways, rendering the familiar strange as he unravels and explores the intricacies of human nature from social and political tensions and contentions, to individual and collective memory and mythology.
The two works presented in this sale are imbued with an air of mystery and intrigue typical of Alÿs’ style. Executed in 1997, Déjà Vu (Walking a Painting) comprises of a pair of small-scale oil paintings. Like the ungraspable lingering of a recurring dream, each canvas depicts a near-identical variation of an anonymous, fair-haired and suited man engaged in the act of walking. With his stance turned from the viewer and left hand poised militantly behind his back, he holds a picture frame around his body, ironically – and self-reflexively – encasing himself in a painting within the painting. The surrealist nature of the work is heightened, as its title suggests, by the sense of Déjà Vu invoked through the duplicated imagery. The work comes from a series of the same name, in which the artist created pairs of small oil paintings and exhibited them in different gallery rooms. This particular set of paintings foreshadows an installation piece from 2005 entitled The Commuters, consisting of an oil painting, eighteen photographs and a set of instructions on a piece of A4 paper. The paper outlines instructions for a visitor to remove the painting from 21 Portman Square at 7pm and return it at 11am the following morning; the sequence is to be repeated between 26 September and 20 November 2005. A self-fulfilling prophecy, the results of this performative act of ‘Walking a Painting’ are uncannily documented by the accompanying photographs.
Born in Belgium and based in Mexico, Alÿs’ own transnational experiences have greatly informed his practice. Very much concerned with the intersections between public and private spaces, cultures and customs, and the observer and the observed, the action of walking becomes highly symbolic. ‘Walking,’ the artist has explained, ‘in particular drifting, or strolling, is already – within the speed culture of our time – a kind of resistance. … It’s a state where you can be both alert to all that happens in your peripheral vision and hearing, and yet totally lost in your thought process’ (F. Alÿs quoted in C. Medina, R. Ferguson and J. Fisher, Francis Alÿs, London, 2007, p. 31).