New York


“Apocalypse Now … becomes a chant, a rant, a slogan, and a scream.”

Jerry Saltz, 1988                                                    

 Post-War and Contemporary Art, Evening Sale

November 12th, 2013

New York - On November 12th, Christie's Evening Auction of Post-War & Contemporary Art will present a major painting by Christopher Wool, Apocalypse Now (“SELL THE HOUSE, SELL THE CAR, SELL THE KIDS”). Executed in 1988, this work is widely recognized as the most important painting in the artist’s oeuvre. With an estimate of $15-20 million, Apocalypse Now is poised to break Wool’s world auction record of $7.7million, which was achieved in February 2012 at Christie’s in London.


"Christopher Wool's Apocalypse Now is the essential image of our times. Executed with a raw power and gritty directness that gave new purpose to the medium of painting in the 1980s, this legendary statement of absolute nihilism makes it one of the most seminal works of contemporary art. It’s much anticipated appearance at auction, firmly places Wool amongst the pantheon of great masters of the 20th century", stated Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art.


Christopher Wool is one of the most important abstract painters of his generation, particularly known for his paintings of large stenciled letters focused on words or expressions with multiple meanings as they are broken up in composition. Executed in 1988, Apocalypse Now is his most iconic work fusing all of the elements that Wool learnt to master throughout his career, combining aspects inherited from Abstract Expressionist art of the 1950s (painterly gesture), Pop Art of the 1960s (the use of silkscreen and other reproductive technologies as well as the influence of street culture), and Conceptual Art of the 1970s (the use of language). Jackson Pollock's Number one, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn or Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Prophet I), all revolutionized the history of Post-War art, Apocalypse Now is similarly acclaimed as one of the game changers of Post-War and Contemporary American art. This work was previously owned by prestigious collectors, Werner and Elaine Dannheisser, François Pinault, David Ganek, before being offered at auction by the present owner.

Christopher Wool's Apocalypse Now  (“SELL THE HOUSE, SELL THE CAR, SELL THE KIDS”), is an iconic example of the artist's most important series of word-based paintings, which begun in 1987. Christopher Wool once said he was 'more interested in how to paint it than in what to paint'. In his signature white aluminum crowded with black block letters, Wool chose text as a vehicle for his reflections on painting.  The whole surface is covered with words, phrases and even jokes and curses, taken from variety of sources and from other media, such as music, and films. The text of the painting is expressing a definitive break, with no possible return, a subtle postmodern fusion of black humor and concrete poetry, effectively exploring a key area of the most recent cultural history. The 1988 painting Apocalypse Now draws from Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and the text comes from the chilling letter from Captain Colby: "sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids." The work loops off three lines from a six line letter judicious and carefully edited “find someone new, forget it. I am never coming back. Forget it”.  “Wool uses only the first three lines of captain Colby’s letter home… he has applied the letters with a graffiti-like touch, thereby echoing, in the painting, the scratched quality of the letter. Apocalypse Now is like an evil crossword puzzle filled in by the damned, the words breaking down with indeterminate angularity into chaos and confusion. The painting becomes a chant, a rant, a slogan, and a scream”, wrote Jerry Saltz, in Arts Magazine in 1988.

Richard Flood, Chief Curator of the New Museum in New York, declared in 2008: “The first time I was really aware of work by Chris Wool was in a now legendary exhibition at 303 Gallery in 1988. It was a collaboration with Robert Gober and included Apocalypse Now (1988), arguably one of Wool’s most important paintings (“SELL THE HOUSE, SELL THE CAR, SELL THE KIDS”). It was probably the painting of the year, and one of the most emblematic pictures in the recession to come that would humble the art world the following year. It offered such a simple, reductive solution for moving on that it became a kind of late-eighties mantra.”


Exhibition           1-12 November, 2013

Auction                12 November, 2013

Christie’s New York, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, 10020 New York

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had auction sales in 2019 that totalled £4.5 billion / $5.8 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.