Barry Flanagan, R.A. (1941-2009)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE COLLECTION OF JOAN AND PRESTON ROBERT TISCHIn 1986, at the height of America’s AIDS crisis, Joan Tisch walked into the offices of New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis on a mission. “I’m Joan,” she announced, “and I’d like to volunteer.” It was a simple declaration - marked by humility, urgency, and a belief in change - that characterised Tischs’ extraordinary spirit. For decades, she was an integral part of her family’s efforts in philanthropy, and with unflagging zeal and generosity, she helped create a lasting legacy in New York and the wider world.Joan Tisch was born in Manhattan in 1927. While studying English at the University of Michigan, the young Joan met Preston Robert “Bob” Tisch, a fellow student and Brooklyn native. “We literally met hanging out on the steps of the library,” she laughed in later years. The couple married in 1948, and went on to have three children.Across nearly six decades of marriage, Bob and Joan Tisch rose to become two of New York’s most prominent civic and philanthropic leaders. Bob Tisch became a goodwill ambassador for his city: in addition to championing New York in Washington, he lobbied to bring two Democratic National Conventions to Manhattan, and generated support for largescale urban development initiatives such as the Javits Center. A lifelong football fan, Bob Tisch purchased a fifty percent stake in the New York Giants in 1991. Joan Tisch was a remarkably driven woman with an unwavering belief in her family’s ability to affect change. Beyond their significant contributions to institutions such as the University of Michigan and Tufts University, the Tischs’ native New York was a particular focus of their energies. From the Central Park Children’s Zoo to New York University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art (where Joan Tisch served as a trustee and posthumously donated works by Léger, Braque, and Giacometti) the family provided significant support to organisations benefitting New Yorkers from all walks of life. Today, the Tisch name can be found throughout the city, reflecting a multi-generational ethos of giving.Joan Tisch was a board member of Citymeals-on-Wheels, where Bob Tisch served as founding president, as well as a stalwart patron of the 92nd Street Y, where she co-chaired the Tisch Center for the Arts. The Tisch family made a transformative impact on NYU, providing major gifts across academic disciplines and schools. Their contributions to the university encompassed educational programs and scholarships in the arts and humanities; the acquisition and renovation of the building now known as the Tisch School of the Arts; Tisch Hospital at NYU Langone Medical Center; the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health and the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health; and the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport.Of Joan Tisch’s many achievements in the public sphere, it is her groundbreaking advocacy during the AIDS crisis and with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis that remains most notable. “When Joan Tisch walked through the doors of GMHC in 1986,” noted Marjorie J. Hill, the organisation’s former CEO, “no one could have predicted the impact she would have … let alone the influence she would exercise as one of the world’s most visible AIDS advocates and philanthropists.” Tisch had lost several friends to AIDS, and understood the importance of personal volunteerism in fighting the virus. From stuffing envelopes to counseling patients navigating medical bills and emotional crises on the GMHC hotline, Tisch was a truly hands-on supporter. “For the first time in years of volunteering,” she said of her early involvement with GMHC, “I had become emotionally involved.”It is a testament to Tisch’s humility that the GMHC staff remained unaware of their fervent volunteer’s social status. When the GMHC photocopier broke down, Tisch was informed that they could not afford a replacement. “My mom promptly wrote a check for $475 and handed it to the manager,” Jonathan Tisch remembered. “He looked very dubious. ‘How do I know this check won’t bounce?’ She replied, ‘Trust me, it won’t bounce.’” The woman dubbed “GMHC’s most famous anonymous volunteer” was eventually asked to join the board of directors, where she spearheaded its transformation from a grassroots movement to the world’s most respected AIDS advocacy and services agency. In 1997, Tisch provided GMHC with a monetary gift that allowed the organisation to move into a new headquarters named in her honour; at the time, it was one of the largest bequests ever made to an AIDS-related cause. “Joan Tisch … never said ‘no’ to GMHC,” the organisation’s CEO Kelsey Louie wrote upon her death. “GMHC will never stop saying ‘thank you’ to her.” “You could ask what would New York be without the Tischs,” MoMA trustee Marie-Josée Kravis mused upon awarding the family the museum’s David Rockefeller Award, “and I think a lot of institutions would be different.”
Barry Flanagan, R.A. (1941-2009)

Nijinski Hare

Barry Flanagan, R.A. (1941-2009)
Nijinski Hare
signed with monogram, numbered and stamped with foundry mark ‘2/5 AA LONDON' (on the right hind leg)
bronze with a dark grey patina
96 in. (243.8 cm.) high, excluding base
Conceived in 1985 and cast in 1986 in an edition of five, plus three artist's casts.
with Pace Gallery, New York, where purchased by the present owners in December 1986.
Exhibition catalogue, L'epoque, la mode, la morale, la passion: Aspects d'art d'aujourd d'hui 1977-1987, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1987, pp. 11, 154-155, exhibition not numbered, another cast illustrated.
Werk, Denver, 25 October 2015, another cast.
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, L'epoque, la mode, la morale, la passion: Aspects d'art d'aujourd d'hui 1977-1987, May - August 1987, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.

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Lot Essay

'The great bronze hares which Barry Flanagan has been producing since the 1980s are one of the most personal and recognisable artistic endeavours of the second half of this century. Spectacular in size, bitingly ironic and bold, as well as terribly individualistic, they are totally unlike what we normally see in museums and galleries around the world' (E. Juncosa, (intro.), exhibition catalogue, Barry Flanagan, London, Waddington Galleries, 1994).

Nijinski Hare, 1985, is one of Barry Flanagan’s most iconic and monumental sculptures, which typified his figurative work from 1979 onwards. Regarded as Flanagan’s most recognisable motif, the hare has become synonymous with his artistic practice, as important as the reclining figure for Henry Moore or the attenuated man for Alberto Giacometti. Inspired by his memory of a hare that he recalled bounding majestically across the Sussex Downs in 1979, Flanagan began to look to a more figurative aesthetic, which moved away from his conceptual works of the 1960s. Leaving behind his more unconventional materials, such as sand and rope, Flanagan began to work in bronze, delineating a series of animal sculptures in this material, such as horses, elephants, dogs and most prolifically, the hare, which he first introduced into his oeuvre with Leaping Hare in 1979. Flanagan first exhibited his bronze hares at Waddington Galleries in 1981, and again a year later in 1982, when he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. Here he included a number of his hare works, such as Hare and Bell, Leaping Hare and Cricketer, all conceived in 1981, propelling his work onto an international platform.

One of the most celebrated qualities of Flanagan’s hare sculptures is their wonderful ability to imbue a sense of wit, humour and playfulness, with the artist often manipulating their anthropomorphic characters into sporting roles as they wrestle, box or dance. This can be seen to dramatic effect in Nijinski Hare, 1985, which is based on the Polish-born Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), who became known as the most celebrated male dancer of the early 1900s and most beloved member of the Ballet Russes, famed for his depth of characterisation and seemingly gravity-defying leaps. Other versions include Mirror Nijinski, 1992, Baby Elephant, 1984, where the hare is poised on an elephant's head and Nijinski Hare, 1996, where the bronze is over 200 inches high. Here Flanagan draws on the prowess of Nijinsky, modelling his hare into a lean and sinuous form, with his left leg raised and arms stretched out, which gives the impression that his is mid-dance. The drama of the pose and the diagonal lines the outstretched limbs create, give the work a wonderful sense of dynamism and animation, which seem to flow through the work, imbuing a sense of motion in Flanagan’s Nijinski Hare. Instead of a rigidity, which can often be found in bronze sculptures, there is a sense of unbound freedom and vitality, which are also associated with the figure of the hare. This celebration of the hare and its qualities of liberty are echoed by Paul Levy, who stated, ‘nothing is more free, vital, spontaneous and alive – from Aesop’s hare outrun by the tortoise to Bugs Bunny – than a capering hare. In France and most of Central Europe, it is the hare that lays eggs at Easter and so promises renewal. In fact, Flanagan’s hares do not carry much of this historic symbolic freight; they simply frolic freely and expressively. They don’t symbolise life, they live it’ (P. Levy, quoted in exhibition catalogue, Barry Flanagan: Linear Sculptures in Bronze and Stone Carvings, London, Waddington Galleries, 2004).

One of Flanagan’s successes was his ability to relate his hares to the human form, imbuing his animal sculptures with humanistic expressions and characteristics. Flanagan explained, ‘I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a surrogate or as a vehicle to entertain in a way. The abstract realm that sculpture somehow demands is a very awkward way to work, so I abstract myself from the human figure, choosing the hare to behave as a human occasionally’ (B. Flanagan, quoted in E. Juncosa (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Barry Flanagan: Sculptures 1965-2005, Dublin, Museum of Art and City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, 2006, p. 65). By choosing his hare to behave as a ‘human’, Flanagan transcends the constraints of academicism, freeing his work from immediate sentiment or sexuality, allowing his hares to become both a personification of, and a symbol for, humanity. Tim Hilton explains, ‘The hare is used to make a connection between the particular and the numinous. It can be thought of as personal, or a person: or as a symbol for a person; or a symbol for some universal principle’ (T. Hilton, ‘Less a slave of other people’s thinking…’, in exhibition catalogue, Barry Flanagan Sculpture, London, British Council, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1983, p. 14).

What was of fundamental significance to Flanagan was the rich mythology of the hare. In 1979 Flanagan discovered the book The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thompson, which explored the mythological attributes of the hare throughout history, listing the transcultural and historically symbolic implications of the animal. It told of the hare’s connotations to fertility, liberty, cleverness, deceit and triumph, recording that in Egyptian mythology the hieroglyph ‘Wn’, represented by a hare on top of a single blue-green ripple, meant to ‘exist’, while in Chinese tradition the Moon Hare holds a pestle and mortar, in which it mixes an elixir of immortality. The role of ‘The Hare as Trickster’, the title of one of Ewart’s chapters, found particular resonance with the artist who delighted in the mercurial and mischievous attributes of the hare, as represented in Nijinski Hare. Michael Compton explains that by drawing on these ancient symbols Flanagan found a deeper connection not only with his subject but with his audience, he stated, ‘While he frequently draws on or refers to the more contemporary conventions in art, the effect of his work is to touch the most basic and ancient, physiological and psychological resonances in his viewers. His works slump, balance and dance in ways that we recognise profoundly within ourselves’ (M. Compton, ‘A Developing Practice’, in exhibition catalogue, Barry Flanagan: Recent Sculpture, New York, Pace Gallery, 1983, p. 16).

We are very grateful to the Estate of Barry Flanagan for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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