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Hairy Hat

Hairy Hat
signed, titled and dated ‘Julie Curtiss Hairy Hat, 2017’ (on the reverse)
acrylic and oil on canvas
30 x 30in. (76.2 x 76.2cm.)
Painted in 2017
White Cube, London.
Private Collection, London.
Ross + Kramer Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by present owner in 2019.
L. Stoppard, 'Julie Curtiss’s art of the beautiful grotesque', in The Financial Times, May 2021 (illustrated in colour, online version only)
London, White Cube, Dreamers Awake, 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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Auction

Lot Essay

In Julie Curtiss’s Hairy Hat (2017), a hat floats before a cloudless, pink-blushed blue sky. It is formed of twists of thick, chestnut hair, which emerge from its crown before pouring shaggily over the brim: each strand is picked out in luscious detail, creating glossy cascades of beguiling texture. While she conjures a range of surreal precedents—from Méret Oppenheim’s fur teacup to René Magritte’s bowler-hatted men and Domenico Gnoli’s fetishistic close-ups of fabric and coiffure—Curtiss’s hat creates a sense of untamed secrecy that is entirely its own, coming to life independent of the male gaze. ‘Hair fascinates me’, she has said, ‘because it’s one of the most durable products of the human body, it’s an organ you can sever without pain. It has a function but it is also an ornament, and that encapsulates two of my favourite subjects: nature and culture. Also, when it comes to women, I find it interesting that if it’s on the head, it’s beautiful, but if it’s on the body, it’s repulsive. I like this dance of opposites’ (J. Curtiss, quoted in E. Burns, ‘Q&A with Julie Curtiss’, Maake Magazine, 2016). In 2017, Hairy Hat was shown in ‘Dreamers Awake’, a group show at White Cube Bermondsey which explored Surrealism in the work of women artists including Louise Bourgeois and Dorothea Tanning.

Born in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, Curtiss studied at the capital’s École des Beaux-Arts; after winning the 2004 LVMH young artists’ prize, she spent an exchange semester at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was only years later that she became aware of the work of the Chicago Imagists, including the pioneering Christina Ramberg, who had studied there some four decades before her. Hairy Hat’s title seems to make a wry nod to these kindred spirits with its echo of the ‘Hairy Who’—the name under which a group of six graduates exhibited their bold, playful graphic works together throughout the late 1960s. Curtiss also spent time living in Tokyo before eventually settling in New York, where she worked as a studio hand for both Jeff Koons and KAWS while continuing to develop her own practice. This depth of technical and art-historical learning resounds in the present work, whose hypnotic surface is achieved through a precise command of her medium. Curtiss uses matte, highly-pigmented acrylics and oils to mimic the flatness of gouache on a large scale, heightening the hair’s pristine sheen. Riveting, uncanny and animated with mystery, Hairy Hat exemplifies the work of a painter deeply in tune with the weird and wondrous currents of contemporary life.

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