PER KIRKEBY (1938-2018)
PER KIRKEBY (1938-2018)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
PER KIRKEBY (1938-2018)


PER KIRKEBY (1938-2018)
signed and dated ‘PER KIRKEBY 1981’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
79 x 79in. (200.5 x 200.5cm.)
Painted in 1981
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
A. Hejlskov Larsen, Per Kirkeby, Paintings 1978-1989, Cologne 2016, pp. 176, 177 and 293, no. M 529 (exhibition view from Stedelijk van Abbemuseum in 1982 illustrated, p. 175; illustrated in colour, p. 385).
Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Per Kirkeby, 1982.
London, Gallery Nigel Greenwood, Per Kirkeby. Paintings 1981-1982, 1982-1983.
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.

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Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Measuring two metres in width, Untitled (1981) is a monumental example of the surging abstract terrains that lie at the core of Per Kirkeby’s practice. It was featured in Rudi Fuchs’ acclaimed exhibition Per Kirkeby at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in 1982, a show which signalled the artist’s rise to the international stage. Rendered in deep, earthy hues of black, green and maroon, the work presents a rhythmic rhapsody of forms, its shifting passages of pigment evoking a craggy subterranean landscape. Parts of the surface are veiled in streams of dripping paint, and carved with sgraffito scrawls. Chalk-white impasto beams down like a waterfall, a torrent of light, or a fossil seized in sedimentary rock. A former geology student at the University of Copenhagen, Kirkeby was inspired by the majestic topographies of his native Denmark, its dramatic vistas manifesting directly his enigmatic pictorial surfaces. Evoking the dynamic landscape of his Scandinavian homeland, Untitled exemplifies the sensory, gestural language that propelled Kirkeby to international acclaim in the early 1980s.

1981 was a pivotal year for Kirkeby. He featured in the seminal exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, alongside the likes of Georg Baselitz, Willem de Kooning and Phillip Guston. The following year, he participated in Documenta 7 and the legendary Zeitgeist show held at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. By 1984, he was heralded as one of Scandinavia’s most important living artists, a reputation confirmed by the three-artist exhibition Munch-Jorn-Kirkeby at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven that same year, which placed his work in the company of Asger Jorn and Edvard Munch.

As a student, Kirkeby travelled to locations including Greenland, Central America and the Artic. The artist was less interested in depicting specific locations, however, than conveying their lasting impact upon his psyche. This approach led him to take inspiration from the sublime landscapes of Northern European Romanticism, particularly those of Caspar David Friedrich; the ‘all-over’, gestural surfaces of Abstract Expressionism; and the pictorial structures of Post-Impressionism, specifically those of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. ‘I believe that Cézanne makes a connection in the way he speaks of the insight into Nature that one achieves later in life, which is also an insight into the nature of the picture’, Kirkeby explained. ‘The picture, too, is nature. The forces that pile up in Mont Sainte-Victoire are no different from those that organize the picture. Perhaps, this is why his last pictures are built up like a hewn stone wall’ (P. Kirkeby, Håndbog, Borgen 1991, p. 150). Like the French master, Kirkeby’s submission to the raw properties of paint enabled him to capture the dynamic forces of nature he envisioned. Indeed, in its tactile surface of rhythms, currents and abrasions, Untitled can be considered as its own piece of natural history: a tectonic terrain laden with the marks of its own making.

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