search

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Julian Schnabel (B. 1951)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more VISIONARIES: WORKS FROM THE EMILY AND JERRY SPIEGEL COLLECTION
Julian Schnabel (B. 1951)

Hamid in Alcheringa

Details
Julian Schnabel (B. 1951)
Hamid in Alcheringa
oil on velvet
107 3/4 x 84 in. (263.5 x 213.3 cm.)
Painted in 1983.
Provenance
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1985
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay


“My work is about seeing. Ultimately, it’s about a way of looking at the world. I’m just painting what I’m seeing; I’m just trying to connect the dots of my own vision.” Julian Schnabel

In Julian Schnabel’s Hamid in Alcheringa, a support of luxurious velvet displays arabesques of black paint that surround the central figure of Hamid in a spectral miasma. Emerging through the haze in the upper left corner is a pagoda set within the clouds of a mountain-scape; is this reality or a dream experienced by the painting’s protagonist? Hamid’s position—with his head tilted upward to consider this ephemeral scene—suggests the latter, as does the painting’s title as the word ‘Alcheringa’ is taken from a language of indigenous Australia and refers to the Dreamtime that is so central to their culture. Schnabel painted at least one other painting with the character Hamid as the subject—Hamid in a Suit of Light from 1982—and as such, the artist’s Velvet Paintings are a small but important painterly exploration that adds to his ever-expanding exploration of the materials of painting.

In addition to velvet, Schnabel has worked with a range of innovative materials to construct his paintings. Though born in New York City, the artist would come of age in Houston, where he trained at the University of Houston and would have his first solo exhibition at the city’s Contemporary Arts Museum in 1976. Upon returning to the city of his birth and the center of the art world, Schnabel would begin painting on an enormous scale. The artist worked first with encaustic techniques by layering wax with paint into burnished surfaces. Next came the plate paintings that would earn him his reputation as one of a new cadre of artists known as the Neo-Expressionists. Alongside artists such as David Salle and Eric Fischl, Schnabel would reinvigorate the language of painting after its proclaimed “death” following the reign of Conceptual Art and Minimalism. His vibrant colors and monumental scale would inject the medium with a new sense of vitality.

Schnabel’s contribution to the Neo-Expressionist agenda became more and more important as his painting career developed. Materiality is at the core of the artist’s process, resulting in a variety of unexpected choices, such as the velvet support seen in the present work along with wax, and the broken plates he would affix to the canvas and ultimately become most known for. As critic Raphael Rubenstein has written, “Seen up close, the painting turns into a chaotic abstraction as brushstrokes skitter across the jagged range of ceramic outcroppings, jumping countless tiny gaps, sometimes coagulating into hardened globs of paint, blithely ignoring or else artfully echoing the shapes and decorative motifs of the broken plates. Consciously or not, Schnabel invented a format that made achieving recognizable images intensely difficult. This self-imposed challenge may be exactly what keeps the plate paintings, which began in 1978 and taper off around 1986, looking so fresh when many other Neo-Expressionist paintings have become period pieces” (R. Rubenstein, “Julian Schnabel,” Art in America, March 2011).

Around 1980, Schnabel made velvet his chosen material for supports, a material that then, perhaps even more than now, conjured kitsch associations. In these works, Schnabel was continuing the high art/low art discourse that Warhol, among others, had begun in the 1960s when he had taken everyday advertising images, Campbell’s soup cans, and Brillo Soap boxes etc. as the inspiration for his artwork. Marcel Duchamp, the French Dadaist, set the stage for Warhol earlier in the 20th century by introducing the concept of the readymade, or found art object, into the lexicon of modern art and revolutionizing the ways in which the way objects encountered everyday were considered. Schnabel’s choice of velvet as the support for his paintings upends the upper echelons of the art world by entering a velvet painting into its hallowed halls.

Julian Schnabel is an artist not afraid to experiment or innovate, and throughout his career he has mercilessly pushed the boundaries of what constitutes an artistic medium. The unconventional support he used for Hamid in Alcheringa exemplifies this highly original approach and forces us to reconsider the normative procedures of traditional easel painting, and which in turn led to significantly reshaping the art worlds of the 1980s. As Schnabel proceeded to paint against the rules, his distinctive innovations led him to abandon the traditional confinements of painting, and this progressive artistic development restored painting to its pre-abstraction status, a status that had—only a few years before—been declared obsolete.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

View All
View All