Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)

K 36 (The Black Horse)

Details
Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)
K 36 (The Black Horse)
stitched horse hide, polyurethane foam, painted wood, sand and steel
overall: 83 1/8 x 117 5/8 x 59 7/8in. (211.5 x 298.6 x 151.8cm.)
Executed in 2003
Provenance
Galleria Continua, San Gimignano.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003.
Literature
Berlinde De Bruyckere One 2002-2004, exh. cat., Tilburg, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005, no. 25 (illustrated in colour, p. 25). This exhibition later travelled to Paris, La Maison Rouge, Foundation Antoine de Galbert.
M. Holborn (ed.), Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, London 2009 (illustrated in colour, pp. 236-237).
Exhibited
Venice, L Biennale Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, 2003 (illustrated in colour, p. 15).
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Shape of Things to Come, New Sculpture, 2011 (illustrated in colour, pp. 34-35).
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 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium

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Lot Essay

'I want to show how helpless a body can be. Which is nothing you have to be afraid of - it can be something beautiful' (B. De Bruyckere quoted in S. Douglas, 'The Way of All Flesh: Berlinde De Bruyckeres Waxen Corpus', pp. 22-23, in Modern Painters, Summer 2009, p. 23).


Executed in 2003, K 36 (The Black Horse) formed the centrepiece of Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckeres critically acclaimed one-woman exhibition at the Venice Biennale that same year, to which she had been invited to contribute by the curator Francesco Bonami. The grand and mysterious presence of K 36 (The Black Horse) towers over the viewer and immediately captivates the senses with its gorgeous sculptural form and sensuous clash of material textures, a keynote in Berlinde de Bruyckere's growing influence on global contemporary sculpture. The sumptuous flowing curves of the main body glisten with the natural silken horse hair as it catches the light. Perched on a large scale, apparently industrially treated table, whose top has a sort of petrified presence, the direct relationship between 'sculpture' and 'plinth' immediately calls to mind that giant of modern sculpture, Constantin Brancusi. However, as with much of the greatest art of the last twenty years, de Bruyckere has here taken the lessons of 20th century developments of abstract and material form and re-applied them to the real world.

The glistening, reconfigured form of a horse has been created using actual hide, covering an armature which has little to do with the naturalistic work of taxidermists. Instead, De Bruyckere has created an object of abstract beauty with looping forms that arc into the distorted mass of the body while the head is tucked back at an impossible angle. The viewer is seduced by the undulating forms which occasionally release their anchor to the reality of the material; the sheen of the hair, which she has masterfully accentuated, heightens the sense that this work has a purity of form which sits squarely between the figurative and the abstract. This effect is accentuated by her decision to cover the entire body - including the eyes, the mouth and even the bottom of the hooves - with hide, lending it a near uniformity that is tellingly disrupted by the conspicuous stitching. Details such as the mane and the stitching ensure, however, that the truth of the origins of the surface remains emphatically apparent. Ultimately, perched on the minimal, industrial table, as though on some clinical contemporary altar, this imposing mass becomes a source of immense pathos. Bent inward upon itself, the eyeless, earless horse is senseless and inert, a contrast to the associations with movement and vitality that we usually have with these creatures.

Looking at K 36 (The Black Horse), De Bruyckere's occupation with the middleground between abstraction and figuration is clear. Many signifiers remain to ensure that the viewer is aware that it is a horse that we are looking at, yet the forms have been restructured in such a way that they have gained their own autonomous beauty. The bending legs and the arched neck bring a flowing sense of motion to the sculpture which is made all the more dramatic by the contrast between these seemingly organic shapes and the rigid, sparse architecture of the table upon which it has been placed, a modern plinth. The table also emphasises the sheer mass of this monumental sculpture, which, with the employment of negative space between the forelegs in particular, recalls the sculptures of the British artist Henry Moore. While horse-like elements remain in this sculpture, De Bruyckere has deliberately edited the animal in order to remove any details that might evoke overt sentiment: 'at the last moment I decided I didn't want to see a face, nor a muzzle, I sometimes only want to keep a reference to the ears, which are somehow what make it a cuddly animal' (De Bruckere quoted in 'Berlinde De Bruyckere', www. lookinart.net). Instead, De Bruyckere focuses on its impaired dignity and, by extension, the incredible vulnerability of this twisted body, which is celebrated with the sensual gleam of the hide and of the curving body itself, which so recalls the pared-back refinement of Brancusi's sculptures.

Brancusi's glistening bronzes are echoed in K 36 (The Black Horse) in particular through De Bruyckere's use of the shiny hide - humanely sourced from a merchant who usually prepares the skin of naturally deceased animals for leather - which coats the entire composition. The presence of this material introduces a transgressive element: while seemingly adopting the conventions of Modernist sculpture in the forms of K 36 (The Black Horse), the horse hair introduces a sense of the uncanny. It insistently emphasises the importance of the body itself to De Bruyckere's work. A number of De Bruyckere's sculptures based on the human body have been exhibited in 'dialogues' with Old Masters, for instance last year at Venetian and Flemish Masters at the Museé des Beaux Arts in Brussels and this year in the Kunsthalle Wien in Mysterium Leib. Berlinde De Bruyckere im Dialog mit Cranach und Pasolini.

In a sense, her sculptures enact part of the centuries-old debate between the arts, as the two-dimensional pictures of the Old Masters spring into vivid and bracing life in the three-dimensional form of her sculptures. At the same time, the frequency with which her work is shown in such a context reveals both the universality of the themes that lie at the heart of her sculptures, and also the impressive way in which they are able to lend weight to older works. As has been demonstrated in shows such as the one at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Brussels, De Bruyckeres work often tackles concepts of mans vulnerability. Crucially, though, De Bruyckere's work serves, like those Old Masters, not as a simple indictment, but instead as an object of contemplation, of redemptive beauty.

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