• Press release
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  • New York
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  • For immediate release
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  • 7 September 2021

Christie's announces IMAGE WORLD: Property from a Private American Collection

21st Century Art Evening and Day sales, November

Untitled, 1981
chromogenic print
24 x 48 in. (61 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1981.
This work is from an edition of ten plus two artist's proofs.


New York – Christie’s announces IMAGE WORLD: Property from a Private American Collection will be offered in the 21st Century Evening sale and the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day sale in early November. Taking  inspiration from the 1989 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition on the Picture Generation titled “Image World: Art and Media Culture,” a groundbreaking show that explored how artists engaged with mass-media and culture in their practice, the collection features many of those artists such as Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince, as well as works by Christopher Wool and Elizabeth Peyton.

Christie’s will tour highlights of the IMAGE WORLD collection at the Southampton pop-up exhibition space from 3-12 September, as well as Hong Kong (7-12 October), London (9-16 October) and Los Angeles (20-23 October). Twenty-nine works will be offered across the November evening and day sales, with additional works included in future sales. 

Ana Maria Celis, Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, 21st Century Art, comments, “Exactly thirty-two years after the Whitney’s groundbreaking Image World show, Christie’s is delighted to present pay homage to the Pictures Generation artists who disrupted the status quo of the art world of the 1980s and 1990s. The collection also features very contemporary image makers who owe much of their careers to this generation.”

Disillusioned with the lack of social and political change in the 1970s, a group of artists emerged in the 1980s that sought to challenge the status quo. Taking their inspiration from the highly visual culture into which they were born, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Richard Prince deployed the visual language of advertising, TV, and Hollywood in the service of their own messages about sexuality, identity, and social justice. Today, nearly fifty years later, and a society even more saturated with images, IMAGE WORLD will celebrate the work of these pioneers, demonstrating not only the radical nature of their art, but also how it remains central to the concerns of a new generation.

Christopher Wool’s Untitled from 1995 is monumentally scaled and layered with an application of pitch-black paint on aluminum overlaid with brash strokes of white paint evocative of the downtown counterculture of New York City in the 1980s and 90s (estimate: $7,000,000-10,000,000). The overall effect of the dense composition and layers of pigment exudes a raw power and gritty directness and displays Wool’s overall radical advancement of contemporary painting. 

The IMAGE WORLD collection features three of the best images from Cindy Sherman’s celebrated Centerfolds series which will be offered in the same sale for the first time. Sherman’s Centerfolds series is an early series originally commissioned by Artforum magazine in 1981, and the title refers to the large-scale double page horizontal formats reminiscent of a Playboy-esque erotic magazine centerfolds. The series was radical in its upturning of the traditional male gaze, with the artist’s insertion of herself as the main subject. Created on a scale of two by four feet, they are credited with launching large-format photography as a high-art form. The artist's third series and the second to ever employ color, the associated pictures are widely acknowledged to be Sherman's most accomplished, with editions housed in the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art, Canberra. The Centerfolds were featured prominently in the artist’s recent retrospective at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2020-21), her first solo show since 2006.

In Cindy Sherman’s Untitled, 1981, the artist has cast herself in a bright, colorful guise, adopting the persona of a young teenage girl (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). She appears dressed in an orange gingham skirt and simple V-neck pullover whilst lying supine on a Formica laminate floor clutching a torn classifieds page. It is an image that is at once seductive and anxiety-inducing, the young woman shrouded in ambiguity as she stares off-camera into the distance with a disinterested gaze. The image glows with a radiant, artificial light that appears almost theatrical or cinematographic, heightening the drama of the composition. This exact edition was in the former collection of the Akron Art Museum, which organized Sherman’s first major exhibition in 1984 that later travelled to the Walker Art Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Examples from this edition have only appeared three times at auction.

Sherman’s Untitled #92 and Untitled #93 from the Centerfolds series round out the offering in the collection. Other examples from the Untitled #92 edition reside in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; The Broad, Los Angeles; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Elizabeth Peyton’s Liam and Noel in the 70s epitomizes the artist’s acclaimed portraiture practice, depicting brothers and frontmen of the British rock band Oasis (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). As with much of Peyton’s portraits of the late 1990s, she painted from photograph, using a family photo of the duo in their youth. Infused with Peyton’s romantic color palette, the double portrait both amplifies our fascination with celebrity, while simultaneously reflecting innocence and vulnerability of the rockstars.

Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) from 1981 is a prime example of the artist’s punchy propaganda-inspired visual collages. Framed by Kruger’s signature pop of red, the text ‘Your manias become science’ reads like a headline across the appropriated image of a billowing mushroom cloud. Concept and graphics collide in this work, demonstrating Kruger’s strength in confronting viewers to challenge our societal structures and assumptions. Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) echoes as poignantly today as it did in 1981.

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