THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)
THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)
THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)
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THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)
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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)

The Bachelors of Avignon

Details
THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (est. 2004)
The Bachelors of Avignon
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
96 x 93 1⁄2 in. (243.8 x 237.5 cm.)
Painted in 2011.
Provenance
Vito Schnabel, New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Michael Baptist
Michael Baptist Specialist

Lot Essay

Large in scope and scale, the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s The Bachelors of Avignon does not hide its appropriation of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, overtly challenging the famed picture as a celebration of its brilliance and a satire of its hold on art history. A contemporary to Banksy, the Foundation has made anonymity their glamorous trademark. While Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is clearly from the artist’s hand and identifiably painted in oils, the Foundation’s The Bachelors of Avignon is more redolent: the hand of the artists is unclear because the artists themselves are not known, the subjects of the fragmented photographs are anonymous, and the mediums are layered. Realness and construction are confused in this glorious chaos. Yet amidst this visual contradiction, this work is fundamentally and intentionally readable as a copy of the Picasso.

The Bachelors of Avignon mimics the composition of Picasso’s Demoiselles directly. In this painting, featured is the same group of five figures, yet here they have been parodically reconstructed with men’s bodies. These bachelors, drowned in rich earth tones, match the figuration of the women. They are amusingly comprised of photographic elements and drawings executed in the style of Picasso himself. This juxtaposition of reality and abstraction is reminiscent of Hannah Höch’s collages, in which she would affix appendages to inanimate objects, creating pseudo-Frankenstein humanoids.

Comedic and compelling appropriation is one of the hallmarks of the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s oeuvre. They have taken on Manet, Velázquez, Gericault – the artists and artworks who define our knowledge of art history – here taking on the ultimate master, Picasso. This work is both an embrace of and a departure from Picasso’s geometric style, replacing his splintered planes and shard-like curvatures with the salacious hyperrealism of the photographed male nude. The Foundation pays homage to Picasso’s innovative approach to depicting the human form while also usurping his success at doing so with photography, a medium that gets even closer to reality.

Founded in 2004, the Bruce High Quality Foundation is the arbiter of the Estate of Bruce High Quality, a fictional sculptor who perished during the horrendous attacks on 9⁄11. Comprised of an unconfirmed and unknown number of Cooper Union alumnus, the Foundation—members of whom go by the ‘Bruce’ moniker—work across mediums, including sculpture, film, painting, installation and performance. They have even tried their hand at reworking institutions, building an MFA-caliber, tuition-free art school aptly named Bruce High Quality Foundation University (closed in 2017). Across medium, their purpose is consistent: to use their platform as an autonomous collective to inspire agency within the historically inaccessible Academy of art.

Their mysterious identity permits their artwork to exist without distraction, their value determined absent of the artists’ voice or celebrity. Though they notoriously reject requests for interviews, on their mission they said the following: “We aspire to invest the experience of public space with wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man’s desiring.” With an irreverence and rascality, the Foundation subverts the foundational pillars of the Academy and provocatively reworks them to challenge the social, economic, and political conditions that uphold it. The Foundation is fearlessly satirical, politically agitated, while remaining carefully deferential to art historical critique. The Bachelors of Avignon is a radical democratization of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, invigorating it with humor and seriousness, fact and fiction, laudation and disruption.

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