MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)
MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)
MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)
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MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)
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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)

Not Picasso (Bather with Beachball, 1932)

MIKE BIDLO (b. 1953)
Not Picasso (Bather with Beachball, 1932)
signed, inscribed and dated '1932 • 1987 Bidlo' (on the reverse)
oil on linen
57 3⁄4 x 45 1⁄4 in. (146.7 x 114.9 cm.)
Painted in 1987.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
Private collection
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 13 May 2009, lot 403
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Mike Bidlo: Picasso's Women, January 1988.

Brought to you by

Michael Baptist
Michael Baptist Associate Vice President, Specialist, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Putting the work of the twentieth-century masters under contemporary scrutiny, Mike Bidlo is known for his forensic examinations of works by artists like Giorgio di Chirico, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. Not Picasso (Bather with Beachball, 1932) is Bidlo’s version of the Spanish Cubist’s iconic canvas which currently hangs in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Painstakingly re-crafting the extant early twentieth-century piece with his own hand, Bidlo sparks a conversation about originality and authorship in the postmodern era. Working from reproductions, the artist creates near-perfect facsimiles of masterpieces from the Western canon. However, instead of photocopying, silkscreening, or using other mechanical means, the artist works much like a method actor; he steps into the original artist’s shoes and goes about figuring out how to work like the original. “I think everyone brings their own signature and personality into their work, even if they’re making replicas,” Bidlo noted in an interview with Artforum. “I’ve always seen it as wedges of a pie that fit together in a general reaction to the times. My work is perhaps an extreme example of this strain of art which references other art because it directly mirrors the image, scale, and materials of the original. Whatever differences appear in my work are a consequence of my working method and not an attempt at projecting a personal style” (M. Bidlo, quoted in R. Rosenblum, “Mike Bidlo talks to Robert Rosenblum”, Artforum, April 2003, p. 193).

Aware that being a successful artist today comes with an acknowledgment of influence and inspiration, Bidlo does not pretend that he is riding the legacy of his subjects. Instead, by using recognizable works from time-honored artists, he produces a more accessible dialogue within the art-historical timeline. Using this visual recognition, he is able to surprise the viewer by presenting them with something they might know well and yet have never actually seen. Noting the prevalence of illustrative imagery in print and digital formats today, seeing a physical copy of a work with all its presence and the infusion of work hours readily on display creates a disparity of knowledge that the audience must confront immediately.

Working with oil on linen in the exact scale of Picasso’s original, Bidlo labors through his canvas in predetermined quadrants and sections so as to most accurately duplicate each shape, stroke, and color. The bulbous form of the bather, her skin and brightly colored bathing costume as vibrant as they are in the original, floats past a strange landscape in the background. The colors are as near as they can be using new paints, and the entire work could easily be mistaken by a casual observer. Noticeably, Bidlo does not include Picasso’s signature scrawled in black in the lower left corner of the original canvas. This conscious decision separates the newer work from its source and begins a larger conversation around the idea of influence and artistic license within contemporary art. Bidlo creates every work by hand, even the copies of Duchampian readymades which were never crafted by an artist in the first place. “They are all about the handmade readymade,” the artist says about his working methods. “For me all masterpieces are readymades. I’ve always felt at home and not alone in claiming Duchamp’s legacy. His selection of already-made everyday objects opened new avenues for subsequent generations of artists” (M. Bidlo, quoted in A. Bonney, “Mike Bidlo by Anney Bonney”, BOMB, Issue 45, October 1, 1993). Using imagery from the art world around him, Bidlo calls for a reassessment of the age-old idea of the aura. What is the difference between a copy and an original? And can a copy ever be an original? Works like Not Picasso (Bather with Beachball, 1932) sit at the crux of this discussion as they occupy multiple tiers of originality with an aura all their own.

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