Miquel Barceló (b. 1957)
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Coprolithes I

Coprolithes I
signed and dated 'Barceló i I 1989' (on the reverse)
mixed media on canvas
78 ¾ x 78 ¾in. (200.2 x 200.2cm.)
Executed in 1988-1989
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995.
Miquel Barceló, exh. cat., Trento, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, 1993 (illustrated, p. 26).
Nîmes, Musée des Beaux Arts, Miquel Barceló, 1991 (illustrated in colour p. 72)
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Miquel Barceló 1984 - 1994, 1994, (illustrated in colour, p. 36). This exhibition later travelled to Valencia, IVAM Centre del Carme.
Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Miquel Barceló, 1996 (illustrated in colour, p. 44)
Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Miquel Barceló Mapamundi, 2002, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 51).
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. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

A brilliant stretch of whiteness sweeps across Miquel Barceló’s 1988 painting Coprolithes I. Exemplifying the monochromatic paleness that dominates Barceló’s canvases from this period, the work seems to renounce the Western visual culture in which he was so heavily steeped in favour of a more contemplative, measured and primordial way of life. Barceló was deeply influenced by his extensive travels during the ‘80s, none more so than in West Africa, where he frequently returned to live for long stints of time. Here he could reflect on the slow-paced passing of time under harsh desert conditions, blinding sunlight, and barren, rocky landscapes. Enchanted by such extremities of circumstance, he noted how ‘The light in the desert is so intense that things disappear, and the shadows are more intense than the things themselves’ (M. Barceló quoted in Miquel Barceló: Obra sobre papel 1979-1999, exh. cat., Madrid 1999, p. iv). Positioned from above in Coprolithes I, as if gazing down from a birds-eye view, the viewer gains a vivid, almost visceral sense of such arid desert scenes, ablaze under a scorching and relentless sun.
In this work, Barceló’s dazzlingly stark canvas is interrupted only by the thick impasto paint and roughly textured surface, swelling and bulging from the pictorial plane at sporadic intervals. Created through an accumulation of paint and mixed media elements, the use of organic matter in his work, so evocative of coprolites and fossils from prehistoric times, fascinated Barceló. ‘For the white pictures,’ he explained, ‘I used anything from grains of rice to almonds, beans and chickpeas in order to cause irregularities in the surface. Later they were simply lumps of paint’ (M. Barceló quoted in Miquel Barceló 1984-1994, exh. cat., London 1994, p. 94). He delighted in the dust that would accumulate on his canvases in the hot African heat, filling them with a metaphysical quality that had hitherto been absent in his earlier works. From this period onwards, the act of painting became an act of will, defiance, and even necessity against the testing environment of African life. An affirmation of the artist’s own being, such existential, even cosmic, preoccupation is poignantly addressed in this compelling work.

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