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Multicolored Portrait

Multicolored Portrait
signed and dated ‘Condo 2014.6’ (upper left)
acrylic, charcoal and pastel on linen
128.3 x 108 cm. (50 1/2 x 42 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2014
Skarstedt Gallery, New York, USA
Private Collection, New York, USA (acquired from the above by the previous owner)
Private Collection (acquired from the above by the present owner)
Special notice
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 who agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. If there are no other higher bids, the third party commits to buy the lot at the level of their irrevocable written bid. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. Christie's compensates the third party in exchange for accepting this risk provided that the third party is not the successful bidder. The remuneration to the third party may either be based on a fixed fee or an amount calculated against the final hammer price. The third party may also bid for the lot above the irrevocable written bid. Where the third party is the successful bidder, the third party is required to pay the hammer price and the buyer's premium in full.

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Ada Tsui (徐文君)
Ada Tsui (徐文君) Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

George Condo, a celebrated artist who first emerged into the New York art scene in the 1980s and worked alongside contemporaries such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His rich pictorial creations have made him one of the most inventive and popular artists of his generation. Multicolored Portrait (2014) epitomises Condo's mature style, it is also a continuation of his "expanded canvases" series. Executed in acrylic on linen, with well-defined charcoal lines and soft pastel elements outlining the portraiture against a yellow background, Multicolored Portrait presents exuberant forms and vital colours, presided over by balmy shades of sky-blue, lavender, fuchsia and light grey, conjure an expansive sense of light and space. This hybrid state human face—has been central to Condo's oeuvre since the major works Diaries of Milan (1984) and Dancing to Miles (1985), both in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This is also the first time the present painting is being offered in the auction market, bringing in an elevated level of enthusiasm to appeal collectors.

Multicolored Portrait derives from his most-sought-after 'psychological cubism' series; it is a triumph of his multifaceted approach to bridge the boundary between figuration and abstraction. Snatches of recognizable human features—eyes, eyelashes, forehead and streaks of hair of an elegant nude—are subsumed in an enchanted chaos. The fragmented faces and upper body are composed of abstract shapes that assemble a three-dimensional form. The viewer can decipher Condo's recontextualization of Picasso's cubism works of the 1930s, in which he finessed Cubism to prismatic heights. Condo's experimentation of various shapes to piece together the profiled head find clear parallels in works like Picasso's Buste de femme (1938). It is also evident that all top fifteen auction records of Condo derive from the same series.

Throughout Condo's career, he has immersed in an intelligent conversation with the history of painting, and Picasso has remained a key touchstone and influence. "I describe what I do," said Condo in 2014, "as Psychological Cubism". Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states". However, there is one major difference between the two: Picasso's cubism emphasizes on creating a new way of seeing familiar faces, such as his most beloved Dora Maar; whereas for Condo, the highlight is on the psychological perception of his imaginary subjects. He does not only attempt to show an object from various angles, but rather to paint the internal and ever struggling emotions of the human psyche.

Although Condo is a painter, he also adopts a similar approach to a classical composer. Multicolored Portrait is a symphony of a painting—counterpoising flurries of busy movement with more quiet, open sections; with its density of ideas, overlapping themes and vibrant contrasts. Condo's expressive use of structure and improvisation, the rhyme and rule-bending of his forms and tones, also draws upon his relationship with music. At the University of Massachusetts, he studied Music Theory along with Art History. "You are still" said the theorist Félix Guattari to Condo, "a musician at heart. With you the polyphony of lines, forms and colours belong to a temporal dimension rather than one of spatial coordination. Your paintings are like non-arpeggio chords which unleash their harmonies and their melodic potential".

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