New York

New York - Christie’s is proud to present an upcoming Private Sale exhibition: “We had to destroy it in order to save it.” Painting in New York in the 1970s.   Co-curated by the esteemed art historian Robert Pincus-Witten and Christie’s Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Development, Amy Cappellazzo, the exhibition will be on view from October 2-27, 2012 in Christie’s 20th Floor Private Sales gallery, Rockefeller Center.  It will feature approximately 40 works by artists who remained dedicated to painting at a time of crisis in the discipline: Richard Artschwager, Jo Baer, Jennifer Bartlett, Mary Heilmann, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Robert Moskowitz, Elizabeth Murray, Blinky Palermo, Dorothea Rockburne, Susan Rothenberg, Robert Ryman, and Frank Stella.  Many of the works featured in the exhibition are on loan from select private and institutional collections.

The 1970s remain one of the most thought-provoking yet least distilled and deciphered periods in art history.  This exhibition will hopefully elucidate the artistic impulses of artists who stayed with the Modernist tenets of painting against all odds,” declared Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art Development, and co-curator of the exhibition.

My experiences of the New York art world during the 1970s were charged and privileged.  I met and worked with many figures who were addressing the role of painting at a moment when painting itself was under particular siege. These artists, then scarcely known but today household names, were trying to find ways to maintain their sense of painting's contemporary pertinence. My years at Artforum as an editor in the 1970s were, in a sense, allowed for by my primary academic responsibilities since there is scant monetary gain in the critical calling. I was curious about how this seemingly anomalous period could be revisited, how it would strike today’s audience. When Amy Cappellazzo of Christie's invited me to join her in such a retrospective glance, I responded with alacrity,commented Robert Pincus-Witten, co-curator and Professor Emeritus in Art History at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York.

The title of the exhibition derives from a statement by an anonymous military official during the Vietnam War and reiterated by Peter Arnett in The New York Times, “We had to destroy it in order to save it,” regarding the US bombing of the civilian town Ben Tre.

The 1970s was a tumultuous time in American history and by extension, art history. New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy. Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of despair and a need to rethink the future. President Gerald R. Ford angered many New Yorkers by refusing to grant the city a bailout, a decision famously summarized by the New York Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead." During this time of social and political turmoil, artists were responding to this upheaval by incorporating new media and technologies into their artistic practice. While multimedia works were perceived as the most avant-garde, a group of New York painters radically returned to traditional methods of application, with an emphasis on the handmade in their commitment to the authenticity of painting.  “We had to destroy it in order to save it." Painting in New York in the 1970s, aims to shed light on those who adhered to painting’s principle ideas. These artists preserved painterly expression by redefining it for a new generation.

The catalogue will feature essays by Robert Pincus-Witten and Barbara Rose who were among the most influential critics when art criticism enjoyed huge influence.  During the 1970s Robert Pincus-Witten was a Senior Editor at Artforum and Barbara Rose curated the divisive “American Painting: The Eighties” exhibition at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University in 1979. 

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

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