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Property to Benefit CORE: Community Organized Relief Effort

New York, New York

New York, New York
signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'Joel Mesler 2021 NY NY It works if you work it' (on the overlap)
acrylic and pigment on linen
84 x 65 in. (213.4 x 165.1 cm.)
Painted in 2021.
Donated by the artist, courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
Sale room notice
This lot has been donated by the artist to benefit CORE: Community Organized Relief Effort.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Joel Mesler’s New York, New York is a colorful and vibrant tribute to the city which has played a central role in the artist’s life. Painted the year after a period like no other in the city’s modern history, it acts as his personal homage to the ‘city that never sleeps.’ “New York is a very special city to me,” the artist explained. “I moved to New York from Los Angeles in 2007; it was the city where I became a man. At this moment of collective awareness, I wanted to make a painting for CORE that sheds light and gives hope to the city that never sleeps. The five apples represent the five boroughs of a city that seems to be just as much about time as it is about place.”
Set against a backdrop of vivacious—almost tropical—colors, nearly a dozen fronds of lush banana leaves are silhouetted against a rich golden sunset. Five apples, in recognition of the city’s five boroughs, are placed in between the serrated outlines of the leaves. Finally, in neon-styled letters, the words ‘New York, New York’ are emblazoned across the surface as if trying to eradicate the gloom of a dark year.
Mesler’s paintings address universal themes by filtering them through humor, self-deprecation, and surprising compositional juxtapositions. Their wry surrealism and emphasis on words and phrases place them in dialogue with the work of artists like Ed Ruscha and Christopher Wool, who also engage with language and the relationship between text and image. But Mesler’s concerns are his own. Much of his iconography is loaded with personal history, such as the instantly recognizable foliage that is inspired by the pattern of the wallpaper in the Beverly Hills hotel, which the artist remembers from his childhood. However ‘lighthearted’ his compositions appear at first glance, his paintings pose a series of eternal and searching questions.
Joel Mesler was an art dealer, operating a number of galleries in New York and the Hamptons, before turning to painting full-time. He earned his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and has held solo exhibitions at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2021), Simon Lee, London (2018), and Galerie TORRI, Paris (2016).
Proceeds from the sale of New York, New York will benefit CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), a disaster response organization founded by Sean Penn and Ann Lee, and dedicated to saving lives impacted by or that are vulnerable to crisis. Since March 2020, CORE has been working on the frontlines with public and private partners to provide free COVID-19 testing, essential resources, contact tracing programs, and life-saving vaccines to communities most affected by the pandemic. CORE’s mission aims to address the inherent intersection of disaster and social justice; whether it be in their domestic or international relief programs, CORE is the first on the ground to provide critical services to communities who need them most.
Ann Lee, one of the co-founders and Chief Executive Officer of CORE, commented, “We are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 has laid bare the deep inequalities that people in this country face. We are working directly with marginalized communities to ensure that those who need vaccines get them. We are immensely grateful to Christie’s for their partnership to raise critical funds and awareness, and are sincerely humbled by those who have so generously donated pieces to benefit CORE’s continued work on the frontlines of this crisis. History will remember those who are rising to the occasion during this inflection point for the human race."
Throughout the years, CORE has received an overwhelming support from the art world and, through its partnership with Christie's, has been able to raise over $4million in auctions to support programs in Haiti, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the US.
The selection of contemporary artworks has been generously donated by the artists themselves, with proceeds from the sale directly benefiting CORE’s COVID-19 programs across Los Angeles, Navajo Nation, Washington D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Georgia, and North Carolina.

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