PETER DOIG (b. 1959)
PETER DOIG (b. 1959)
PETER DOIG (b. 1959)
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PETER DOIG (b. 1959)
4 More
The Rosa de la Cruz Collection
PETER DOIG (b. 1959)

Rainbow Wheel

PETER DOIG (b. 1959)
Rainbow Wheel
signed twice, titled and dated 'Peter Doig, '98'-99' "RAINBOW WHEEL"' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 x 73 in. (198.1 x 185.4 cm.)
Painted in 1999.
Victoria Miro, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1999
A. Searle, K. Scott and C. Grenier, Peter Doig, New York, 2007, p. 20 (illustrated).
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum; Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art and The Saint Louis Art Museum, Peter Doig/MATRIX 183 Echo-Lake, February 2000-January 2001 (illustrated).
Miami, de la Cruz Collection, Beneath the Surface, December 2014-October 2015.

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Julian Ehrlich
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Lot Essay

Measuring over six feet in height, Rainbow Wheel plunges its viewer into an ethereal landscape of Peter Doig’s making. At the center of this monumental and dreamlike composition stands a vibrant-yellow Ferris wheel, the spokes of which radiate like the sunbeams. At its base, crowds gather to ride the magnificent rotating wonder or gape at the old-fashioned bumper cars. Shades of pink, lavender, and seafoam define much of the fairground against which bright pops of red and green glow brightly. Rainbow Wheel sumptuously captures summertime wonder, cotton candy, thrill, and possibility.
Painted in 1999 and acquired for the de la Cruz collection that same year, Rainbow Wheel marks an important moment in Doig’s career, during which he moved away from the thick handling of paint that had the far characterized his canvases. In works from this new period—including Figure in Mountain Landscape II, held in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—Doig’s treatment of paint is lighter, more translucent. Color teems. Lines are delicate, gossamer. Light seems to originate from somewhere internal. The airiness and sense of marvel imbue his canvasses with, as Nicholas Serota described, “a kind of mythic quality that’s both ancient and very, very modern” (N. Serota quoted in C. Tomkins, ‘The Mythical Stories in Peter Doig’s Paintings’, The New Yorker, December 11, 2017).
Given their traditional techniques, it is a wonder that paintings such as Rainbow Wheel were executed during the decade that saw the rise of the Young British Artists. For his contemporaries, who were also working in London, shock and nerve were frequent gestures. The art was boisterous and rowdy—replete with images and materials that seemed to have been harvested directly from their urban worlds—and Doig’s quieter paintings offer a bold counterpoint to the bravado that so dominated the art world during these years.
Indeed, in contrast with the Young British Artists, Doig allows for and encourages reverie. The oversized presence of the Ferris wheel adds to the romance and frivolity of Rainbow Wheel; what could embody pure joy more than a machine whose sole aim was to show its riders the majesty of the world? The amusement park ride was dreamt up for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where organizers hoped to rival Gustave Eiffel’s eponymous tower that had so wowed the crowds at the Exposition Universelle in Paris four years earlier. Designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., the first riders ascended skyward on June 21, 1893. A visitor to the fair reported that to ride the Ferris wheel produced an “indescribable sensation,” that of “revolving through such a vast orbit in a bird cage” (R. Graves quoted in P. Kennedy, “Who Made That Ferris Wheel?,” New York Times Magazine, 5 April 2013, online).
The nineteenth century marked an upswell of amusement parks, circuses, and world’s fairs, all of which offered leisure opportunities to the masses. Such subjects were taken up, first by the Impressionists and later their successors, including James McNeill Whistler, who captured the crowds meandering about London’s Cremorne Gardens as well as the pleasure garden’s firework display, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Georges Seurat, who all cast their eyes upon circus entertainers. Leisure was, in this era, a wholly novel concept, and one these artists took up with gusto.
Indeed, the bright, giddy colors of Rainbow Wheel do evoke the delicate qualities of many Modernist painters. Like his predecessors, Doig, too, during the 1990s, developed elaborate surface effects, playing with depth, painterly screens, and decorative, diaphanous veils of color. In particular, he has cited the influence of Pierre Bonnard, a member of the Nabis, whose masterful handling of color as a means of suggesting evoking chimes with that seen in Rainbow Wheel. Doig observed of Bonnard that he “somehow he is painting the space be that is behind the eyes”: “It’s as if you were lying in bed trying hard to remember what something looked like. And Bonnard managed to paint that strange state. It’s not a photographic space at all. It is a memory space, but one which is based on reality” (quoted in Peter Doig, New York, 2007, p. 142).
Just as Bonnard endeavored to evoke sensation, Doig too produces overwhelming and palpable atmospheres. To construct his paintings, he beings with an idea which he then reflects upon and reconstructs according to his own memories, art historical references, and a vast image archive; many of the paintings created during the 1990s revisit scenes from childhood. Doig was born in Edinburgh in 1959 but his family moved to Trinidad when he was two. Seven years later, they relocated again, this time to Canada. In addition to his own history, elements of Doig’s paintings can often be traced to photographic sources, be that a found snapshot or a photograph that Doig himself took, and these serve as departure points for an artist who is interested in “the idea of memory” (quoted in R. Shiff, “Incidents”, in Peter Doig, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2008, p. 21). In Rainbow Wheel, the aqueous paint and ethereal outlines further hint at a fusion of temporalities. Here is a world in flux.
As Doig has noted, his paintings never offer straightforward representations but instead rely upon the myriad associations that shape one’s perception of place. These strategies of disorientation proliferated in his art throughout the 1990s, during a period when Doig was living in London. There, he began painting “an idea of landscapes”, realizing later that the canvases never actually depicted a real experience but instead grappled with the effect of “filtering through things” (P. Doig quoted in J. Nesbitt, “A Suitable Distance”, in ibid., p. 18).
The experience of Rainbow Wheel, like so much of Doig’s oeuvre, is one of distance and distortion, like peering through old windowpanes or snow. Suffused with nostalgia, Rainbow Wheel gives image to a remembered feeling. Neither wholly substantial nor completely conceptual, the painting delights in its own sensorial instability. “Painting should evolve into a type of abstraction,” Doig has explained. “It should slowly dissipate into something else through time, through working, seeing things through” (P. Doig, ‘Peter Doig and Chris Ofili in Conversation’, in Peter Doig, ibid., p. 121).

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