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Stare Red Yellow

Stare Red Yellow
signed, titled and dated ‘STARE YELLOW RED Sean Scully 8/1997’ (on the reverse)
oil on three attached canvases
96 x 84in. (243.7 x 213.4cm.)
Painted in 1997
Galerie Lelong, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
D. Carrier, Sean Scully, London 2004, p. 224 (illustrated in colour, p. 36).
Sean Scully, exh. cat., Edinburgh, Ingleby Gallery, 2005, no. 24 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
L. Beaumont-Maillet, Sean Scully, Paris 2006, p. 62, no. 31 (illustrated in colour, p. 27).
S. Scully, Pinako the K Conferencia, 2014 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Sean Scully, Vita Duplex, exh. cat., Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, 2018, pp. 36 and 39 (illustrated in colour, p. 38).
Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Sean Scully. Grey Wolf - Retrospective, 2012, pp. 118 and 203 (illustrated in colour, p. 119). This exhibition later travelled to Linz, Lentos Kunstmuseum.
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. Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email: 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.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Acquired by the present owner shortly after its creation, and later included in the artist's 2012 retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Stare Red Yellow (1997) is a monumental example of Sean Scully’s celebrated ‘inset’ paintings. From shimmering fields of black and white, two panes of red and yellow stripes beam outwards at the viewer, like windows onto an unknown dimension. Their brushwork is loose and textured, imbuing the work’s geometric structure with light and motion. Begun during the 1970s, the inset paintings lie at the heart of Scully’s practice, capturing his desire to liberate abstraction from the dogmas of Minimalism, and to rehabilitate it as a vehicle for human drama and emotion. The present work embodies this ambition: the two inset panels, explains Scully, resemble eyes, which return the viewer’s gaze. The contrasting tonal fields behind, he writes, create a sense of ‘equivalent pressure. The fascinating thing for me about this painting is that it is a kind of pressure that never stops. The work is painted with energy in these colours, and these colours in the composition create an unrelenting stare that is also timeless’ (S. Scully, lecture at Institut Valencia d’Art Moderne, 4 May 2004).

With examples held in institutions worldwide—including Tate, London, the BAWAG Foundation, Vienna and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas—Scully’s inset paintings stand among his most important creations. Resembling paintings within paintings, they dramatise the age-old notion of art as a window onto the world: the very condition that artists such as Robert Ryman and Donald Judd so vehemently railed against. Scully had initially immersed himself in this milieu during his early days in New York, yet would ultimately distance himself from Minimalism’s truth claims. Drawing inspiration from the works of Diego Velázquez and Henri Matisse, as well as the Abstract Expressionists, Scully conceived his insets as portals through which to draw the viewer into the realm of the painting. Part of his strategy, in this regard, was to organise the insets in such a way that they infused the work with an almost anthropomorphic presence. In some, they evoke ghostly standing figures; in others, such as the present, they seem to harbour their own sensorial power. ‘They function as metaphors for either hope or disturbance’, writes Scully. ‘… This is my way of making the paintings human’ (S. Scully, ‘Albuquerque Lecture’, 12 February 1989).

Stare Red Yellow also bears witness to Scully’s ongoing dialogue with Morocco: a country he had first visited as a young man during the 1960s, and to which he would return at various points during the 1990s. He was fascinated by its textures and colours—from the striped fabric tent coverings that adorned marketplaces, to decorative tiles and mosaics and the dilapidated facades of local buildings. Traces of all three, indeed, may be seen to inform the present work, whose luminous red and yellow strips seem to glow with the memory of warmer climes. The work’s structure, too, assumes something of an architectural quality, the inset panels reminiscent of life inside a building glimpsed through cracks in the wall. Alive with traces of human experience, the painting invites the viewer to project their own stories and feelings into its depths. In this, it ultimately reflects our gaze, its panes of colour staring back into our soul.

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