Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
George Condo (b. 1957)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AUSTRIAN COLLECTION
George Condo (b. 1957)

Noble Woman

Details
George Condo (b. 1957)
Noble Woman
signed and dated 'Condo 09' (on the reverse)
acrylic, charcoal, pastel and paper collage on canvas
72 x 57 7/8in. (183 x 147cm.)
Executed in 2009
Provenance
Massimo De Carlo Gallery, London.
Anon. sale, Phillips New York, 16 November 2016, lot 27.
Simon Lee Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Exhibited
Milan, Massimo De Carlo Gallery, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Art (But Were Afraid To Ask): George Condo, 2009.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

Brought to you by

Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘The idea of uniting drawing and painting on a single canvas arose from Condo’s recognition of the need for immediacy and improvisation with line and gesture but can also be understood as contingent upon the increasing importance of the contrapuntal balance of working at different speeds and rhythms on the same work’
–Simon Baker

Drawing equally on historical precedent and his own imagination, George Condo’s large-scale Noble Woman stirs beauty and horror into a vision both enticing and disarming. On a background of blood-red acrylic and grey-green speckles, the artist draws a pair of hybridised figures in charcoal. The larger, on the left, shows at once a proud, elegant lady in profile overlaid with another visage, with cartoonish, bulging cheeks and two monstrous jaws. The figures share an eye, implying a connection. To the right, a semi-nude female torso is topped with a similarly mangled male head, whose rough-hewn hair and bow tie identify him as Rodrigo, a reoccurring character in Condo’s work. Above these two figures, the upper section of the canvas features charcoal drawings of oblique forms; hidden among the abstraction is a tiny pencil sketch of another Condo cast member, the drunken, wine-bottle-clutching Uncle Joe. Executed in 2009, Noble Woman is an outstanding example of Condo’s ‘Drawing Paintings,’ a chimeric form which began appearing in his oeuvre in 2008. These works see Condo fuse two disciplines into a single work, overthrowing the hierarchies of traditional practice. In addition to paint and charcoal, Condo uses white pastel to signal features both elegant, including the woman’s lustrous hair and her pearl necklace, and grotesque, such as Rodrigo’s bulbous nose and disordered teeth. These embellishments intimate the play of light on material bodies: the figures appear to take leave of the picture plane, looming before the viewer in three-dimensional space.

Condo’s work appears to locate two sets of figures — respectively female and conventionally beautiful, and male and unseemly — in the same place. By collapsing these discrete planes together, he creates a site of ambiguity and discord, asking the viewer to tease out potential connections. The profile portrait, especially that of a refined young woman, is a common genre in Italian Renaissance painting, yet is here estranged by its near-Cubist arrangement – an important point of reference for Condo. The scarlet background, rich in painterly texture and backlit with subtle green flashes, hints ar the work of colour field painters like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, whilst simultaneously conjuring conflicting psychological associations of passion and rage. The work’s mismatched complexity also extends to its medium. ‘The idea of uniting drawing and painting on a single canvas’, writes Simon Baker, ‘arose from Condo’s recognition of the need for immediacy and improvisation with line and gesture but can also be understood as contingent upon the increasing importance of the contrapuntal balance of working at different speeds and rhythms on the same work’ (S. Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London 2015, p. 152). This impetus stems from Condo’s career-long engagement with music, in particular improvisational jazz, whereby different musical ideas spontaneously intertwine into a composition that denies static form.

Condo also wove personal experience into the character of Rodrigo, who stems from a period from 1985 in which the artist lived in Parisian hotels. ‘Rodrigo’, he explains, ‘is the valet wearing his red jacket and his bow tie and when you hand him the keys to your car he drives off and you never see him again … Rodrigo is basically a scoundrel’ (G. Condo, quoted in S. Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London 2015, p. 238). His presence in Condo’s works often implies a semi-repressed violence, liable to erupt at any moment. In Noble Woman his appearance on the canvas is in itself an act of ferocity, bursting out of another figure and demanding to be seen and heard. Both he and his companion, as well as the tortured existentialist Uncle Joe, are examples of what Baker refers to in Condo’s work as ‘unedited human disasters’: figures whose distorted features and expressions embody interior mania and turmoil. Their form draws upon an apocryphal tale of Leonardo da Vinci, in which the Renaissance master told riotous jokes to local peasants in order to capture their unguarded expressions of mirth. ‘These figures’, writes Ralph Rugoff, ‘can be seductive and repulsive at the same time. They embody a position that is simultaneously frightening and appealing. This is something that also comes across in the way they solicit different kinds of looks from the viewer, and how they often look back at us with eyes that don’t match or don’t even seem to belong to the same face’ (R. Rugoff, George Condo: Existential Portraits, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, pp. 8-9). In Noble Woman, Condo takes this interest in the composite and the hybrid to intellectually intricate and aesthetically virtuosic heights.

More from Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

View All
View All