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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION

Halcyon 2

Halcyon 2
signed and dated ‘Riley 72’ (on the turnover edge); signed, titled and dated 'RILEY HALCYON 2 1972' (on the stretcher); signed, titled and dated 'RILEY HALCYON 2 1972' (on the reverse)
acrylic on linen
39 1⁄8 x 36 3⁄4in. (99.4 x 93.5cm.)
Painted in 1972
Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1975.
R. Kudielka, A. Tommasini and N. Naish (eds.), Bridget Riley: The Complete Paintings, Volume 1, 1959-1973, London 2018, p.376, no. BR 152 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, p. 377; incorrectly titled 'Halcyon' and dated '1973').
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Bridget Riley, 1975, p. 17, no. 9 (illustrated in colour, p. 14).
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Arte inglese oggi 1960-1976, 1976, p. 178, no. 9 (illustrated in colour, p. 180).
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. 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. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. 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.
Sale room notice
Please note that this lot which was not marked with a diamond symbol in the printed catalogue is now subject to a minimum price guarantee and has been financed by a third party. Please see the conditions of sale for further information.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Acquired by the present owner in 1975—just three years after it was painted—Halcyon 2 is a vibrant, hallucinogenic work dating from an important moment in Bridget Riley’s career. Unseen in public for almost half a century, the painting was last shown in 1976 as part of the landmark group exhibition Arte Inglese Oggi 1960-1976 at the Palazzo Reale in Milan: at the time the largest display of modern British art mounted anywhere in the world, and a key moment in its European dissemination. Comprising intertwined ribbons of green, pink and blue that alternate with bars of black and white, Halcyon 2 demonstrates the distinctive technique that Riley explored in a small group of paintings during the early 1970s. By wrapping bands of colour around one another in this manner, the artist added new layers of optical intrigue to the stripe paintings that had dominated her oeuvre since 1966. The tones bend and mutate as they entwine, producing prismatic clouds of yellow, orange and purple light that hover before the surface of the canvas. The effect anticipates the revelations of the curve paintings that Riley would begin later that decade, bringing her thesis on human perception to new, ever-more complex heights.

The early 1970s was a pivotal time for Riley, who had risen to prominence during the previous decade. In 1971, the year before the present work, she mounted her first touring retrospective which opened at the Kunstverein Hannover before travelling to the Kunsthalle Bern, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin and concluding at the Hayward Gallery in London. Opened just a few years prior, it was the first time the Hayward had hosted a full-scale retrospective by a contemporary painter: the critic Robert Melville, writing in New Statesman, claimed that ‘No painter, alive or dead, has ever made us more conscious of our eyes than Bridget Riley’ (R. Melville, ‘An Art Without Accident’, New Statesman, 23 July 1971, p. 121). The 1976 exhibition at the Palazzo Reale continued this momentum, elevating not only Riley but also the contemporary British art scene more broadly to new levels of international prominence. The present work took its place alongside masterworks by more than sixty artists, notably David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash (1967) and Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1971), both now held in Tate, London. Ten other works by Riley featured in the show, including Late Morning (1967; Tate, London) as well as paintings subsequently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia (Veld, 1971) and the British Council Collection (Eclipse, 1973).

Riley took her cues from Pointillism, Impressionism, Futurism and other movements that had interrogated the relationship between light, colour and form. Since her childhood growing up by the sea in Cornwall, she had been fascinated by the ways in which the eye and the mind process visual phenomena: clouds casting shadow on the water, sunlight rippling through windswept dunes, tonal variations refracting across sparkling coastal skies. Throughout her practice, she sought to distil these optical effects through abstract visual research, sequencing hues through a range of geometric formations in a bid to understand their reactive properties. In 1966, after years spent working in black and white, Riley made the pivotal transition to colour, taking the stripe as her instrument of choice. By the early 1970s, she was beginning to experiment with increasingly complex formations, infusing her compositions with a sense of motion and depth that would eventually come to a head in her curve paintings. Here, the entanglement of hues causes the entire composition to surge forwards in undulating ripples, like a sunset viewed through the forest: the effect, as the title suggests, is one of halcyon beauty.

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