Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)
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Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)

Marthe

Details
Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964)
Marthe
wax, epoxy, metal, wood and glass
overall: 102 3/8 x 69¾ x 119in. (260 x 177 x 119cm.)
Executed in 2008
Provenance
Yvon Lambert, New York.
Acquired from the above in 2008.
Literature
M. Unterdörfer (ed.), Berlinde De Bruyckere: In the Woods There were Chainsaws, Göttingen 2008 (illustrated in colour and in black and white, unpaged).
Exhibited
New York, Yvon Lambert, Berlinde De Bruyckere, 2008.
London, Saatchi Gallery, Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, 2011 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 30; detail illustrated, p. 31 and illustrated in colour, p. 33).
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.
VAT rate of 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium

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Lot Essay

Framed against the rigid geometric lines of an open glass vitrine, an unsettlingly transmuted human form escapes from the confines of its display case. Redolent of twisted flesh and morphed limbs, Berlinde De Bruyckere's Marthe has an organic physiognomy that evokes an almost visceral disgust that is mesmerizingly compelling. Executed in 2008 in wax, this is a body in distressed duality; flesh foldslike knots on a tree, wounds rupture smooth surfaces with a bark-like texture, we find a hand hidden amongst its branch-like limbs. Despite its lifelike physicality, Marthe is sexless and headless; De Bruyckere has reconfigured familiar anatomy in a deeply strange, affecting way. As if in a writhing state of metamorphosis, Marthe reveals the expressive potential of the body and its sophisticated visual language. Its amorphous, abstract wax form achieves alchemical transformation of wax into flesh that is at once real and fantastical, compelling in its human vulnerability and distress.

De Bruyckere began by making works based on the human figure in the early 1990s, first exploring its absence, and stacking and draping woollen blankets on furniture to symbolise shelter and vulnerability. Then she added bodies, both human and equine, made of wax and almost completely covered in wool; imperfect, sexless and headless. Frequently placing each body on a plinth or inside a cabinet as if posing for the viewer, emphasising their position as art objects as wellas their susceptibility in their exposure to our intrigue. Balancing past, present and the fantastical, De Bruyckere explores universal themes of suffering and solace, life and death. Her work aims at transcending our mortal fragility in to an abstract image that reflects some of the reality of life. The daughter of a butcher, De Bruyckere is unafraid of blood and flesh, saying 'I want to show how helpless a body can be,' De Bruyckere has said, 'which is nothing you have to be afraid of - it can be something beautiful' (B. De Bruyckere quoted in S. Douglas, 'The Way of All Flesh: Berlinde De Bruyckere's Waxen Corpus', in Modern Painters, Summer 2009, pp. 22-23).

The sexual, physical and bodily fascination of Old Master painters spring into vivid and bracing life in the three-dimensional form of her sculptures, something that was explored in exhibitions in which her sculptures have been shown in 'dialogue' with those artistic predecessors, for instance Venetian and Flemish Masters at the mUSE des Beaux Arts in Brussels in 2011, and in Mysterium Leib. Berlinde De Bruyckere im Dialog mit Cranach und Pasolini, which opened at Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle, Germany and travelled to Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland 2011. The resonance that De Bruyckere's work has with stories and art of the past as well as the present illustrates the universality of the themes that lie at the heart of her captivating sculptures.
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