PER KIRKEBY (1938-2018)
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Freischwimmer 94

Freischwimmer 94
signed and numbered 'Wolfgang Tillmans 1/1 + 1' (on an artist's label affixed to the backing board)
chromogenic print mounted on Dibond, in artist's frame
image: 66 7/8 x 89 3/4in. (170 x 228cm.)
overall: 71 1/4 x 93 3/4in. (181 x 238cm.)
Executed in 2004, this work is number one from an edition of one plus one artist's proof
Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.
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.

Brought to you by

Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Spanning almost two-and-a-half metres in width, Freischwimmer 94 (2004) is a monumental work from one of Wolfgang Tillmans’ most iconic series. Ethereal swirls congregate in the composition’s centre, reminiscent of cosmic entities or an underwater scene. Rendered in a full, luminous spectrum of green, the work is created by Tillmans’ controlled exposure of light onto photosensitive paper coated in light-sensitive emulsion. The exposure leaves an image in the emulsion, which is then made visible through chemical development, resulting in a vibrant print. The title Freischwimmer references the beginner’s swimming certificate given to children in Germany, while also means ‘swimming freely’, hinting at its formal fluidity. With examples held in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate, London and Städel Museum, Frankfurt, the series occupies a seminal position in Tillmans’ investigation into the abstract potential of photography.

Begun in 2001, the year after he became the first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize, the Freischwimmer series saw Tillmans departing from the candid documentary approach of his acclaimed early work to explore the possibilities of the photographic medium. The Freischwimmer involve a balance of control and chance: they are not simply ‘captured’ in the traditional sense but meticulously constructed without the use of a camera or negative. Tillmans manoeuvres photosensitive silver-halide paper through the subtle ebbs and flows of light, alternating between exposure and concealment. He choreographs this interplay within his studio’s darkroom, an alchemical space where transformations of matter occur. The chromogenic paper becomes a canvas onto which light traces a delicate dance, resulting in ethereal and complex abstract compositions. Tillmans explains the importance of ‘finding the right balance between intention and chance, doing as much as I can and knowing when to let go, allowing fluidity and avoiding anything being forced’ (W. Tillmans quoted in D. Eichler, ‘Look, again’, Frieze Magazine, Issue 118, October 2008, online).

These measured considerations combine for sumptuous elegance in the present work. The composition appears to defy pictorial space as celestial and biomorphic forms emerge to give us grounding, only fall away within Tillmans’ nexus of abstraction. These fleeting moments of figurative reality are similarly careful constructions. ‘I’m always interested in the question of when something becomes something, or not,’ Tillmans says, ‘and how do we know?’ (W. Tillmans, quoted in M. Herbert, ‘Wolfgang Tillmans Interview’, ArtReview, 21 July 2014). A captivating display, Freischwimmer 94 is not only a bold interrogation of the liminal spaces between painting and photography, but a meditation on the nature of being itself.

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