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Make it Rain

Make it Rain
signed and dated 'Cecily Brown 2014' (on the reverse)
oil on linen
96 1/8 x 103in. (246.7 x 261.7cm.)
Painted in 2014
Gagosian Gallery, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014.
Paris, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, 2014 (detail illustrated in colour, unpaged; illustrated in colour, unpaged).
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. Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Across the vast canvas of Cecily Brown’s Make it Rain (2014), a glorious monsoon of form and colour bursts into life. Ribbons of pink, vermillion, teal, blue and yellow tangle and explode with vibrant energy. The paint runs from thick daubs of impasto to glistening, marbled licks and humid washes of vapour. Human silhouettes emerge amid the melee, bodies crowding together and limbs thrown out in ecstasy; one figure seems to plunge down from the sky. Feline faces, too, flicker in the lower reaches, bearing hints of blood-splashed maw and paw. The painting courses with torrents of activity, its clamorous battle between form and abstraction never coming to rest. With the title Make it Rain, Brown invokes a sense of the primal, elemental power of her liquid pigment, celebrating its capacity for creation, immersion and thrilling, ceaseless change. First exhibited in Paris in 2014, this masterful work has remained in the same private collection since.

When she emerged as a painter in 1990s London, Brown’s practice stood in lavish contrast to the more conceptual stance of her YBA contemporaries. In 1994 she moved to New York, where she still lives and works today. While charged with a vigour entirely her own, Brown’s brushwork inherits much from the work of American Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning. In line with de Kooning’s claim that ‘flesh is the reason oil paint was invented’, Brown’s early, more figurative works dealt with distinctly carnal subject matter, complementing the medium’s voluptuous power. She describes oil paint as ‘sensual, it moves, it catches the light, it’s great for skin and flesh and heft and meat’ (C. Brown, quoted in D. Peck, ‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown’, AnOther, 14 September 2012). While her later paintings have become less legibly erotic, their surging streams of colour remain charged with physicality, as muscular, raw and atmospheric as the paintings of her male forebears.

Brown’s approach also draws upon the fleshy, bloodshot visions of Francis Bacon and Chaim Soutine, as well as masters of the deeper art-historical past. The Baroque hedonism of Rubens, Fragonard’s Rococo excess, the earthy carnivalesque of Bosch and Bruegel, and the chromatic drama of Delacroix can all be glimpsed in the present work’s spectacular, metamorphic surface. ‘The more I look at paintings,’ Brown has said, ‘the more I want to paint, the more engaged I become and the deeper and richer it gets’ (C. Brown, quoted in R. Enright, ‘Paint Whisperer: An Interview with Cecily Brown’, Border Crossings, no. 93, February 2005, p. 40). She has spoken of ‘slowing down’ the viewer in front of her own works, which—much like Bruegel’s Wimmelbilder, or ‘busy pictures’—cannot be apprehended in an instant, but stir, unfold and reveal their riches with extended viewing.

Figuration and abstraction embark on a whirlwind romance in Brown’s painterly universe, each modulating the other in an endless back-and-forth. Ultimately, her medium’s beguiling sensations take precedence over any obvious imagery; whatever motif Brown holds in her mind while she paints remains elusive, often slipping away and resurfacing as the painting progresses. ‘I think that painting is a kind of alchemy,’ she explains; ‘the paint is transformed into image, and hopefully paint and image transform themselves into a third and new thing ... I want to catch something in the act of becoming something else’ (C. Brown, quoted in Cecily Brown, exh. cat. Gagosian Gallery, New York 2008, p. 16). Above all, Brown’s works embrace this sense of ambiguity, revelling in the unfixed, the hybrid and the in-between. In Make it Rain, she employs all the powers at her command to summon a deluge of tactile, chromatic splendour, alive with the joys of sight and touch.

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