Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)


Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
signed 'S. Polke' (lower right); signed, inscribed and dated 'Sigmar Polke in zusammenarbeit mit murex Trunculus für den und die - Richters 1986' (on the reverse)
artificial resin, acrylic, dry pigment, Murex Trunculus, fragments of snail shell on printed fabric
27 ½ x 35 3/8in. (70 x 90cm.)
Executed in 1986
Galerie Karsten Greve, St. Moritz.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009.
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Red over Yellow, A Selection from a Private Collection, 2017.
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. 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.
Further details
We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier for the information he has kindly provided.

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Lot Essay

‘He wanted to demonstrate how the unconscious, in combination with all other forms of knowledge, casts its shadow on how we imagine. By being aware of the fictive nature of the order we impose, by embracing ambiguity and letting go of certainty, we free ourselves of the need for – and the comfort of – a single authoritarian vision.’ – Kathy Halbreich

‘I like it when my art includes references to the past, to my roots. I cannot forget what my precursors have done. Even if the results look new, as far as I am concerned, as an artist I’m following an academic path. I like tracking down certain pictures, techniques and procedures. It is a way of understanding what is largely determined by tradition.’ – Sigmar Polke

‘In a sense, Polke’s oeuvre consists of nothing but reminders of how precious and formative transgressions are. Few artists have pursued as doggedly as he has the pleasures of aesthetic combustibility by mixing and mismatching forms and ideas.’ – Paul Chan

Layering colour over colour, Sigmar Polke’s Untitled, 1986, is a hallucinogenic surface of hypnotic abstraction. Set atop a rectangle of polka-dotted fabric, a whirlwind of coppery varnish ravages the painting, consuming everything in its wake. Iridescent green and periwinkle brace against the impending golden drips, while, along the edges, a misty white slowly seeps inwards. To achieve the deep purples, which streak in places across the surface, Polke painstakingly extracted pigment from the gland of Murex trunculus, or small sea snail, a process that harkens back to when Tyrian, or imperial purple, was highly sought after and could not be artificially manufactured. Polke alluded to this in his delicate spiral and calligraphic inscription on the reverse of the painting, elevating the mollusc to the role of co-creator: Polke working together with Murex trunculus. Polke began his fabric paintings in the mid-1960s, often selecting inexpensive textiles used in homemaking and interior design as tablecloths, aprons or curtains, applying patterns to the surface like paint on a canvas. From the beginning, he manipulated the material to play with scale and improvisation. In Untitled, the cream dots seem as integral and painterly as any of the oil paint and lacquer drips, recalling the artist’s earlier use of raster dots, which he found to be the best expression of a fluctuating reality. Indeed, Polke’s art chased the mystical and mysterious, to demonstrate th falseness of believing in a stabilized world; through the unpredictable and spontaneous mutability of his materials, he encouraged and celebrated the duplicity of the unconscious, as the means of producing a result. 1986 was a significant year in Polke’s career, during which he represented Germany at the 42nd Venice Biennale, where his exhibition, Athanor, took alchemy as its starting point. From the 1980s onwards, Polke experimented primarily with abstraction, often fusing ornamental detail with surfaces suggestive of an alchemical transformation. As curator Kathy Halbreich writes, ‘In place of purity, Polke sought the shadows in which things come to be. Flux prevailed and anything that appeared fixed was quickly set aside’ (K. Halbreich, ‘Alibis: An Introduction’, Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963 – 2010, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 69). Ambiguous yet potent, Untitled is a testament to his passion for wild experimentation, mediated by the allure of lustrous, undefinable colour, which was so important to Polke: ‘I started thinking about colour and its treatment... how, for example, Hinduism explains and uses colour or how Australians use colour... Seeing how colours are made, out of what kind of earth, I couldn’t resist them’ (S. Polke quoted in ‘Poison is Effective; Panting is Not: Bice Curiger In Conversation with Sigmar Polke’, Parkett, no. 26, 1990). Untitled, too, is otherworldly yet organic, as if it was born of a telluric current, the processes unseen by the human eye, a splash of beguiling colour, forever unresolved.

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