Overview

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Michael Craig-Martin (b. 1941)
Sir Michael Craig-Martin, R.A. (b. 1941)

Las Meninas I

Details
Sir Michael Craig-Martin, R.A. (b. 1941)
Las Meninas I
acrylic on canvas
104 3/8 x 82 1/8 in. (265 x 208.6 cm.)
Painted in 2000
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by Leslie Waddington in 2000.
Literature
K. de Barañano and E. Juncosa (eds.), Michael Craig-Martin, exh. cat., Valencia, IVAM Centre del Carme, 2000-2001 (original wall mural illustrated in colour on the front and back covers and pp. 40-41, 48, 51 and 55).
Sale Room Notice
Please note that Artist's Resale Right (ARR) is applicable to the present lot.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

It was a massive space, it looked ecclesiastical, as though it had been a church actually it was something that had come together with bits of architectural detail from different older buildings, but it made a beautiful, beautiful space, and I did one of my most important shows there, and part of that show involved Las Meninas. Because it was Spain, and because Las Meninas has always been thought one of the greatest paintings ever made, I did my own version, which I did as a painted wall in the exhibition. Afterwards I did two or three painting versions of it: this is one of them. There’s another one, which was wonderful for me because it was purchased by the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. The painting shows the artist as the fire extinguisher, the sunglasses are the princess, the pencil sharpener is the dwarf, the canvas is the canvas, the mirror is the mirror in the room, and theres the ladder as the doorway. That was my version of Las Meninas
—M. CRAIG-MARTIN

I have always thought that access to everything important is right in front of your nose. We often look for the special in special objects or special events but actually, if we understood the quality of ordinary things, we are closer to the substance of life
—M. CRAIG-MARTIN


Playfully echoing the composition of Diego Velázquez’s 1656 masterpiece, Las Meninas I (2000) is a vivid example of Michael Craig-Martin’s iconic graphic style. On a background of flat, rich green, a pair of red aviator sunglasses replaces the Infanta Margaret Teresa; her attendant is swapped for a giant pencil-sharpener; the dog becomes a pink belt; Velázquez himself is a pale green fire extinguisher. In the background, a shaving mirror and ladder gesture enigmatically to the original painting’s mirror and open door. What might have been an unassuming still-life is suffused with a brilliantly surreal edge through its bizarre switching of people for household objects, collapsing such reference points as scale, time and space into a field of sharp outlines and planes of blazing colour.

A key figure in the first generation of British conceptual artists, Craig-Martin also taught at Goldsmith’s College School of Art, London, from 1974 to 1988 and from 1994 to 2000, where he was a major influence on Young British Artists including Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, and Damien Hirst. Since his own art’s move to painting in the 1990s, his precise juxtapositions and careful tonal shifts of everyday objects have allowed him to explore spatial and pictorial relationships to intense optical effect. In Las Meninas I, this vibrancy is coupled with the wry art-historical game of reimagining Velázquez, resulting in a visually and conceptually arresting theatre of form and colour.

The idea for the present work was originally conceived for a large mural, installed in the church-like setting of Valencia’s Ivam Centre del Carme in the year 2000. The artist recalls, ‘It was a massive space, it looked ecclesiastical, as though it had been a church – actually it was something that had come together with bits of architectural detail from different older buildings, but it made a beautiful, beautiful space, and I did one of my most important shows there, and part of that show involved Las Meninas. Because it was Spain, and because Las Meninas has always been thought one of the greatest paintings ever made, I did my own version, which I did as a painted wall in the exhibition. Afterwards I did two or three painting versions of it: this is one of them. There’s another one, which was wonderful for me because it was purchased by the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. The painting shows the artist as the fire extinguisher, the sunglasses are the princess, the pencil sharpener is the dwarf, the canvas is the canvas, the mirror is the mirror in the room, and there’s the ladder as the doorway. That was my version of Las Meninas’ (Sir M. Craig-Martin in conversation with Christie’s, August 2016).

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