Imi Knoebel (b. 1940)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Imi Knoebel (b. 1940)

London I

Details
Imi Knoebel (b. 1940)
London I
signed and dated 'Imi 2..3' (on the reverse)
acrylic on aluminium, in three parts
each: 96½ x 48 x 4in. (245 x 122 x 10.5cm.)
overall: 96½ x 144 x 4in. (245 x 366 x 10.5cm.)
Executed in 2003
Provenance
The Artist.
Galerie von Bartha, Basel.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005.
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.
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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘I thought: everything has been done already … Yves Klein has painted his canvas blue, Lucio Fontana has cut slashes into his. What’s left? If you want to do something, to stay alive, you have to think of something at least as radical’
IMI KNOEBEL


The first of a series of three works, the other two of which are held in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Korea and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Imi Knoebel’s London I (2003) is a symphony of precise form and captivating colour. Spanning over 3.5 metres in width, it presents a 3 x 2 arrangement of six aluminium squares painted in solid tones of black, white, coral, rose and peach. The two lower right panels are each overlaid with a two-tiered 3 x 3 grid of thin bars, which offset the colours behind them with a dance of orange, yellow, pink, deep purple and two distinct pale blues. At the border of every panel, glimpses of an underlying lattice of further blue, orange and red tones can be seen. The panels take on a subtly altered character at each of their four sides as colour plays different roles in different contexts: the icy turquoise border to the white panel gains a tropical edge when it meets the sandy square to its right; the deep black square to the top left is ignited by its accompaniment of red; citrus and orange bars deepen a sunset warmth to the lower right. Transcending the boundary between sculpture and painting, Knoebel uses his strips and squares of metal to explore an endless variety of formal contrasts and affinities. The work not only presents us with a complex two-dimensional configuration of tones but also extends play into the third dimension, as colours are physically foregrounded or inset by their place within the work’s system of grids and panels. Further nuances of light and darkness are introduced by the shadows that fall inside the grids, shifting in response to the changing brightness of the work’s setting. Knoebel’s complex, joyful and immersive celebration of colour is carried by a decisive structural clarity. While utterly abstract, London I gestures to the forms of urban experience with its title: echoing the façades, windows and doors of architecture, Knoebel transposes the impression of a city into the supreme and self-justifying domain of pure beauty.

Preoccupied with the encounter of colour and its material support, Knoebel’s geometric abstraction builds on the legacy of Mondrian and Malevich with an eclectic and cerebral range of influences. First came the Bauhaus ideas of the Darmstadt Werkkunstschule, where he learnt the colour theories of László Moholy-Nagy and Johannes Witten in 1962. It was here that he met fellow artist Rainer Giese, who shared an obsession with Malevich: the two even emulated the Suprematist by shaving their heads and wearing long, unfastened capes and shoes without laces. They named themselves Imi & Imi – an abbreviation of Icht mit Ihm (‘I with him’) and also the name of an East German detergent that bore the slogan ‘a guarantee for uncompromising purity’. This radical tongue-in-cheek approach was enough to convince Joseph Beuys to admit the duo to his classes at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in 1964, where Knoebel later met his friend Blinky Palermo. From this distinguished and wide-ranging education, Knoebel forged a vivid, clear-sighted outlook that is distinctively his own, producing works of clean graphic force and serene emotive resonance. London I’s painted aluminium elements create a fascinating hybrid of painting and sculpture that is true to his resolutely formalist practice, but its palette verges on the romantic, with soft tones of sky and skin interacting with gentle charm. The work’s gaps and borders show us how it is made, yet this sense of deconstruction only heightens its optical magic. What we see is everything: as Knoebel says when asked about his painting, ‘I look at it and can only take in the beauty, and I don’t want to see it in relation to anything else. Only what I see, simply because it has its own validity’ (Imi Knoebel, quoted in J. Stu¨ttgen, ‘“I wouldn’t Say Anything Voluntary Anyway!” Interview with Imi Knoebel,Imi Knoebel: Works 1966- 2014, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, p. 24). Knoebel’s passionate, exacting approach results in a work of both coolness and warmth, suffused with the infinite potential of colour, form and luminosity.

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