ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
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ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)

Tot negre. No. LXXI. (All Black. No. LXXI.)

ANTONI TÀPIES (1923-2012)
Tot negre. No. LXXI. (All Black. No. LXXI.)
signed and dated 'tàpies 1958' (on the reverse)
mixed media on canvas
78 ¾ x 76 ¾in. (200 x 195cm.)
Executed in 1958
Galerie Stadler, Paris.
Donald Gomme, London (acquired from the above in 1958).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 27 February 2008, lot 49.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
B. Bonet, Tàpies, selección, montaje, interpretación, Barcelona 1964, p. 174 (illustrated, p. 61).
A. Agustí (ed.), Tàpies, The Complete Works, Volume 1: 1943-1960, New York 1988, p. 534, no. 701 (illustrated, p. 361).
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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.

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Lot Essay

Executed in 1958, Tot negre. No. LXXI (All Black. No. LXXI) is a vast near-sculptural apparition dating from an important moment in Antoni Tàpies’ early rise to acclaim. Within its dark monochrome surface, layered with sparkling flashes of cement, the artist traces a quivering ovular form. Confronting the viewer like an ancient inscription, or a black void glittering with constellations, the work demonstrates the mystical material language that propelled the artist onto the international stage during this period. 1958 was an important year, witnessing his first Italian solo exhibition in Milan, a major showing of fifteen paintings at the Venice Biennale and his receipt of the prestigious First Prize for Painting at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh. During his travels in Italy he met Alberto Burri, whom he had long admired, as well as Lucio Fontana. Indeed, the present work invites comparison with the work of both artists, conjuring Burri’s contemporaneous ‘nero’ (‘black’) works and Fontana’s oval-shaped patterns of ‘buchi’ (‘holes’). While the latter drew inspiration from contemporary developments in space exploration, however, Tàpies was more fundamentally interested in the properties of physical matter. Blending substances as diverse as marble dust and clay with oil paint, he created rich visceral surfaces which he incised with oblique forms and symbols. In doing so, Tàpies sought to imbue his earthbound works with a poetic, metaphysical charge, like coded relics excavated from a distant time and place. The works from the late 1950s stand among the most powerful early statements of this approach, with examples held in Tate, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Much of Tàpies’ outlook may be traced to his upbringing during the Spanish Civil War, where he witnessed the streets of his native Catalonia become progressively scarred with physical traces of conflict. Fascinated by the notion of marks as ciphers for human presence, he began to experiment with drawing: an activity that consumed him during a long period of convalescence from lung disease during the early 1940s. Artists such Joan Miró and Paul Klee informed much of his early practice, which was later nourished by encounters with Abstract Expressionism and Arte Povera. Moving from Spain to Paris in the early 1950s, he quickly took his place within the emerging ranks of Art Informel. Eastern philosophies came to play an increasingly prominent role in his thinking, prompting him to view his artworks as vehicles for spiritual revelation. ‘I regard mysticism as a state of mind which is necessary to scientific thinking, as well as to art’, he explained; ‘it enables one to discover things which cannot be found by other means … [My art is] a means of communicating with things. I see it as a kind of contact with a universal matter which governs the entire being of the universe and which I think we all, in our own way, resemble’ (A. Tàpies, quoted in B. Catoir, Conversations with Antoni Tàpies, Munich 1991, p. 73). With its raw, elemental surface – simultaneously evocative of the ground below and the starry skies above – the present work is a poignant example of this approach.


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