NEO RAUCH (B. 1960)
NEO RAUCH (B. 1960)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
NEO RAUCH (B. 1960)

Panne (Breakdown)

NEO RAUCH (B. 1960)
Panne (Breakdown)
signed and dated 'RAUCH 00' (lower right); titled and inscribed '-330- PANNE' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 ¾ x 118 1/8in. (200 x 300cm.)
Painted in 2000
David Zwirner, New York.
Rachofsky Collection, Dallas.
Zwirner & Wirth, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Leipzig, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Neo Rauch. Randgebiet, 2000-2001 (illustrated in colour, p. 110; illustrated, p. 141). This exhibition later travelled to Munich, Haus der Kunst and Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich.
Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum, The Vincent van Gogh Bi-annual Award for Contemporary Art in Europe: Neo Rauch, 2002, p. 106 (illustrated in colour, pp. 107 and 136; titled 'Prima').
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Lot Essay

A surreal, enigmatic vision stretching three metres in width, Panne is a monumental example of Neo Rauch’s visionary practice. Formerly held in the Rachofsky Collection, it was shown at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht as part of the prestigious Vincent Award, which the artist won in 2002. In the upper right-hand segment, a man kneels as if in prayer before an open refrigerator; below, a scene of devastation unfolds, as a limp body is pulled from a fallen helicopter. Along the lower edge, abstract daubs of colour encroach upon the composition like paint peeling from a billboard. The work’s title, translating as ‘breakdown’, seems to allude not only to the crash at the centre of the composition, but also to the sense of fragmented meaning and order that characterises Rauch’s work. Forged from the collision of multiple influences—from Renaissance frescoes to Surrealism, Pop Art, comic books and the Socialist Realism of his youth—his paintings ask fundamental questions about how images are processed and stored in our collective consciousness. In Panne, banality and catastrophe sit quietly side by side, incongruously yet inevitably part of one another’s world.

Rauch first came to prominence in the 1990s as a member of the so-called New Leipzig School. Raised in East Germany, he was orphaned as a baby after his parents were killed in a train crash—an event that flickers in the shadows of the present work. The aesthetics of Socialist Realist painting and propaganda had an important impact on his practice, informing his washed-out palettes and static, expressionless figures, as well as the sense of Cold War paranoia and espionage that pervades many of his works. It was not until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that Rauch was able to engage more closely with Western imagery: a sudden cultural jolt that is repeatedly played out across his canvases. Panne bears witness to his fascination with Giorgio de Chirico, whose foreboding piazzas and strange collisions of objects were deeply influential. The spectre of American Pop, too, looms large across his practice, producing a scintillating tension between Communist and capitalist value systems. The present work is particularly reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book strips, with their deadpan commentary on consumerist culture, as well as Andy Warhol’s ‘Death and Disaster’ paintings.

If the theme of manmade tragedy strikes a poignant autobiographical chord with Rauch, it is offset here by a somewhat more spiritual note. His first trip outside the Iron Curtain in 1989 was to Italy, where he visited the Franciscan churches in Assisi. There, the work of Giotto sealed itself in his memory: ‘at this turning point I became the artist I am’, he recalls (N. Rauch, quoted in T. Loader Wilkinson, ‘Interview: Artist Neo Rauch’, Billionaire, June 2019). The individual narratives contained within the Italian master’s frescoes are echoed in the structure of Rauch’s own canvases, which confront the viewer like disconnected fragments from a larger whole. Here, the green and yellow palette of the helicopter is reflected in the man’s striped shirt, as if the two—despite their incongruency—were miraculously cut from the same cloth. The figure’s stance recalls the various praying figures that populate Giotto’s frescoes, simultaneously gesturing to the sense of divination that Rauch claims to experience while painting. Images, he explains, come to him as if through dreams, appearing after hours of silent mediation through a ‘white wall of fog’ (N. Rauch, ibid.). Like so many of Rauch’s best works, the painting’s subject matter hints at the very dynamics of its own creation, where collision and contemplation play equal roles.

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