Bruce Nauman (B. 1941)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more VISIONARIES: WORKS FROM THE EMILY AND JERRY SPIEGEL COLLECTION
Bruce Nauman (B. 1941)

Untitled (Three Small Animals)

Details
Bruce Nauman (B. 1941)
Untitled (Three Small Animals)
aluminum, wire
76 x 76 x 66 in. (193 x 193 x 167.6 cm.)
Executed in 1989.
Provenance
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Texas Gallery, Houston
Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1990
Literature
N. Benezra, et al., Bruce Nauman: exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné, Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 1994, p. 322, no. 436 (illustrated in color).
R. Kostelanetz, A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, New York, 2001, p. 440.
Exhibited
Houston, Texas Gallery, Bruce Nauman, May-July 1989.
Ridgefield, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Bruce Nauman: 1985-1996, Drawings, Prints and Related Works, May 1997-April 1998, pp. 50-51 and 80 (illustrated in color).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

“I had some forms cast in metal and when they came back from the foundry they were cut in pieces... The casts were around the studio for a while, and then I started putting them back together in different ways—rearranging them into new shapes that became more abstract.” Bruce Nauman

Created in 1989, Bruce Nauman’s Untitled (Three Small Animals) is a striking example of the artist’s critically-acclaimed series of animal hybrids, cast alternately in wax, polyurethane, stainless steel, and in the present work (which is suspended from the ceiling by wires), aluminum. Similar versions are owned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (in polyurethane foam) and the Tate, London (also aluminum). Both whimsical and bizarre, Nauman’s series combines body parts from various wild animals, including deer, wolf, bear, fox and others, based on taxidermy molds that he then recombines in perverse permutations. Stripped of their fur and other distinguishing characteristics like eyes, ears, whiskers and hooves, these unexpected new hybrids exude a haunting beauty.

In Untitled (Three Small Animals), Nauman’s elaborate three-part structure fuses the body parts of different animals in unexpected arrangements. Limbs protrude at odd angles, as if flayed, broken or lopped off, while the delicate silvery sheen of the aluminum lends a ghostly effect. The animals retain the spectral forms of their lifeless bodies, whose anatomy suggests small predators like the fox or wolf. Cast in aluminum and suspended from the ceiling by wires, the three creatures that Nauman creates appear to hover weightlessly, as if floating in mid-air. Nauman has deliberately positioned the piece so that the animal forms hang at eye-level, forcing the viewer to confront the piece head-on. The effect is both jarring and magical, remaining resolutely not of this world.

This work is an early example of Nauman’s series of cast animal hybrids, which he began in 1988 after visiting a taxidermy shop in New Mexico. Experimenting with different materials, Nauman worked with increasing variety, eventually experimenting with wax, polyurethane, aluminum and stainless steel, among others. As the series progressed, Nauman produced increasingly bizarre yet fascinating combinations. The animal forms took on greater permutations, arranged in groups, suspended from the ceiling with wires, looping together in circles or stacked one upon the next in pyramids. In doing so, he experimented with different animal parts, combining them into impossible arrangements to create strange hybrid-like forms. He explained: “I had some forms cast in metal and when they came back from the foundry they were cut in pieces, I guess because it was easier to cast them that way. The casts were around the studio for a while, and then I started putting them back together in different ways—rearranging them into new shapes that became more abstract.” He explained: “They are beautiful things. They are universally accepted, generic forms used by taxidermists yet they have an abstract quality that I really like” (B. Nauman, quoted in C. Cordes, “Talking with Bruce Nauman: An Interview 1989,” in J. Kraynak, ed., Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words: Writings and Interviews, Cambridge, 2002,
pp. 376; 374).

The animal hybrids eventually opened up new avenues for Nauman, whose work in the following years began to include cast body parts like heads and hands, lending his work an expressive warmth not often found in his previous work. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Nauman’s Untitled (Three Small Animals) is the life-like quality the animals nevertheless retain, their hardened aluminum forms uncannily calling to mind their furry, real-life counterparts. Indeed, Nauman seems to capture and suspend the magical quality of the living animal by recasting it in aluminum and suspending it in mid-air. It evokes the myriad associations, myths and legends that readily come to mind, from storybook characters to talking animals and animated cartoons and film, not to mention the furry creatures we allow into our home and keep as pets. Still sinister associations linger, however, when one considers that the fox is often hunted for sport rather than for food, which might then allude to the relationship of hunter to prey, and the original use of the taxidermy molds, used to mount animals as trophies.

The genesis for Nauman’s suspended animal hybrids lies in the 1988 masterpiece Carousel (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag), in which Nauman used polyurethane animal forms that he strung up to the ends of a steel fulcrum, which slowly rotates around a central axis. The hanging animals drag along the floor as they spin, and the taxidermy forms that Nauman employed make them appear like carcasses in a slaughterhouse, strung up on meat hooks. There is a gruesome quality that directly contradicts the light-hearted joy of a typical carousel, as if Nauman intends to dismantle the cheerful artifice that masks everyday reality, albeit with an element of twisted humor. Its effect on Contemporary artists cannot be overstated. The art critic Peter Plagens describes: “There’s no missing the implication of tragedy and brutality in the animal bodies being dragged unwillingly around...and leaving circular tracks on the floor...as if digging in their heels or hooves in objection to going to the slaughterhouse. ...When we look at the piece, which is installed so that the animals greet us at eye level, we feel a little squeamish and may perhaps promise ourselves not to eat meat for a while. On the other hand, even Nauman’s more readily grotesque pieces contain an inevitable element of dark humor, even cheerfulness” (P. Plagens, “Horses and Other Animals,” in Bruce Nauman: The True Artist, London, 2014, p. 212).

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

View All
View All