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Erwachsen werden, Fabio (Growing Up, Fabio)

Erwachsen werden, Fabio (Growing Up, Fabio)
consecutively numbered '1' to '16' (on the reverse of each)
acrylic, crayon and graphite on paper, in sixteen parts
each: 11 5⁄8 x 16 3⁄8in. (29.4 x 41.6cm.)
Executed in 1991
Galerie Lukas & Hoffmann, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
N. Schafhausen (ed.), Kai Althoff. Gebärden und Ausdruck, Frankfurt 2002, pp. 168 and 172, nos. 6-7 and 83-98 (details illustrated in colour, pp. 50-51; illustrated, p. 120-121).
D. Rimanelli, ‘Kai Althoff’, in Artforum, vol. 43, no. 1, September 2004, p. 261 (incorrectly dated '1992'; detail illustrated in colour, p. 260).
O. Koerner von Gustorf, 'Cruising through the Work of Kai Althoff. SUPER Creeps', in Parkett, no. 75, 2005 (incorrectly dated '1996', details illustrated in colour, pp. 98-99).
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Kai KeinRespect (Kai NoRespect), 2004-2005, pp. 22 and 113, no. 22 (incorrectly dated '1992'). This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art.
New York, Galerie Buchholz, Cosmic Communities: Coming Out Into Outer Space - Homofuturism, Applied Psychedelia & Magic Connectivity, 2017.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that the date of execution for this lot should read 1991 and not as printed in the catalogue.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Kai Althoff’s monumental suite of watercolour drawings Erwachsen werden, Fabio (Growing Up, Fabio) (1992) renders a summer of passion in vibrant hues. Althoff tells a tale of queer self-awakening, sexual initiation and wistful longing with startling economy. His limited palette of near-fluorescent red, orange and green gives the work a graphic quality, like a children’s picture book. Curved borders frame each of its sixteen scenes, evoking the pictures of a holiday slideshow: a story told through snapshots. The tale is set in Italy in 1979, with the characters’ striped jerseys evoking the Benetton-esque fashions of the time. Althoff conjures a nostalgic world of picnic blankets, motorcycle rides, beloved pets and mind-opening encounters, while also capturing moments of quiet reflection under the sun. Erwachsen werden, Fabio is one of the artist’s major works from the early 1990s, when he began to garner international acclaim. Uncharacteristically grand in scale, it has been widely exhibited, including in the group show Stonewall 25: Imaginings of the Gay Past, Celebrating the Gay Present at White Columns, New York (1994) and Althoff’s solo survey Kai KeinRespekt at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2004-2005).

Althoff is one of the great mavericks of contemporary art. Born in Cologne but long based in New York, the German artist works across painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, music and text. His exhibitions often weave these works together into beguiling environments. Althoff’s paintings and drawings demonstrate his mastery of myriad genres and subject matter. He creates dusky, distorted scenes reminiscent of the German New Objectivity movement of the 1920s, landscapes evocative of German Romanticism and rough-hewn geometric abstracts, among other modes. By exhuming these storied styles, Althoff animates a past that never was. His manifold approach extends to technique. He deploys paint, pastels, pencil, collage and woven elements, sometimes blending together several at once.

Alongside his artistic practice, Althoff is a committed and eclectic musician. His work often explores the music-adjacent subcultures of the 20th century, from 1960s psychedelia to the avant-garde 1980s downtown scene of his adopted city. This interest in communities has led him to invent numerous enigmatic characters of his own, whose lives unfold through paintings and drawings. Over the years this vision has become darker, as he exorcises the spectres lurking inside human consciousness. In the gleaming, sun-blushed world of Erwachsen werden, Fabio, however, Althoff expresses the pleasure and joy that can come from love and affiliation. ‘The narrative is something of a parable’, writes Nicholas Baume, ‘a tale in which the bruising trauma of difference and rejection is played out, with self-expression and acceptance the eventual outcome … [it] suggests once more the dream of a countercultural world, in which homosexuality might become the natural subject of a charming children’s book. Fabio’s story represents Althoff’s characteristic blending of memory and fantasy’ (N. Baume, ‘Feel it all’, in Kai KeinRespect, exh. cat. Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 2004, p. 11)

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