Big names at surprising prices

Build your post-war and contemporary collection with accessibly priced works by the likes of Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler, Jean Dubuffet, Wolfgang Tillmans and Lucio Fontana — offered in First Open Online, 12-20 September

Antony Gormley

Born in London in 1950, Antony Gormley is known for his sculptures and installations that investigate the relationship between the human body and the abstract nature of the cosmos. 

Of the Body  drawings, Gormley wrote, ‘The works attempt to render the body as a field and to feel the body not as a knowable object, but a subjective space of becoming.’

Georg Baselitz

Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Georg Baselitz did not turn to modern materials or pure abstraction, endeavouring instead to reimagine painterly traditions. Through gestural brushwork and inky, graphic imagery, Baselitz’s works shift between pictorial clarity and incoherence.

Liberated from the constraints of traditional figurative language, his black and white paintings are ‘explosively lyrical’.

Lucio Fontana

Executed in 1960, Concetto spaziale  is an elegant work on paper from Lucio Fontana’s revolutionary buchi’ (‘holes’) cycle. This series, initiated in 1949 — two years after Fontana released his First Spatialist Manifesto — included pictures whose surfaces had been punctured, leaving a constellation of small holes.

Fascinated by the discoveries of the Space Age, Fontana sought to create a visual language that corresponded to mankind’s renewed understanding of the cosmos. The works on paper formed a crucial strand of his practice, offering a vital forum for experimentation. In this work, the faint oval shape encircling the buchi  points to the artist’s fascination with the form and symbolism of the egg.

Wolfgang Tillmans

An enthusiastic and prolific chronicler of his own time, Wolfgang Tillmans’ career is characterised by constant reinvention. As the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize, his work is highly technical and evinces an ongoing fascination with colour and photographic processes. As Tillmans has said, ‘The mobility of the eye is such a fundamental treasure that we have, and that coexists with sensation.’

Helen Frankenthaler

Influenced by painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler serves as a link between Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field painting. Inspired in part by Pollock, in 1952 she pioneered her signature soak-stain technique: diluted oil paint poured onto unprimed canvas, producing lush, crystalline ribbons of colour.

This work is from Frankenthaler’s 71-piece Thanksgiving Day series, which was exhibited in its entirety at her 1975 solo show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Jean Dubuffet

The founder of Art Brut and an outspoken critic of Western stylistic tradition, Jean Dubuffet sought to capture the vitality and raw emotion of everyday life. It was during the early 1970s that Dubuffet’s celebrated Hourloupe  cycle, with its distinctive, jigsaw-like arrangements of red, white and blue cells, reached its pinnacle.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Shore, 1978. Enamel on paperboard. 10¾ x 9⅝ in (27.2 x 24.3 cm). Estimate: £10,000-15,000. Offered in First Open Online, 12-20 September 2018

Rendered in enamel on paperboard, Yayoi Kusama’s 1978 painting Shore  is awash with inky hues of cobalt and sea blue. The work was executed during a period of self-imposed isolation for the artist, following her return to Japan in the early 1970s, in which her efforts were focused predominantly on literature and writing. 

Shore  is part of a group of technically similar works all titled after natural phenomena. Her iconic net motif ripples across the surface of the painting like a living organism. This enveloping effect draws the viewer into the artist’s world: lost in the simplicity of its patterns, we experience the trance-like repetition of the painting process itself.

Kazuo Shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008), Untitled, executed after 1970s. Oil on card. 10⅝ x 9½ in (27 x 24 cm). Estimate: £8,000-12,000. Offered in First Open Online, 12-20 September 2018

With its rich, textural collisions of red, blue and orange, Untitled  offers a powerful close-range view of Kazuo Shiraga’s dynamic painterly technique. A member of the influential Japanese Gutai movement between 1954 and 1972, Shiraga pioneered a new mode of action painting, using his body — most notably his feet — to manipulate pigment into thick, marbled rivers.

Combining the influence of Western Abstract Expressionism with ideas drawn from Eastern philosophy, Shiraga sought to explore the connection between the flesh and the psyche, creating an art form situated between painting and performance art. Here, the material properties of pigment combine with the subconscious impulses of the body — a union that lay at the heart of Gutai.

Louise Bourgeois

Much of Louise Bourgeois’ work concerned distortion: the pliable body and the repetition of form. Bourgeois was completely enthralled by the spiral, and it remained a recurrent motif during her prolific career.

Drawing remained a constant throughout Bourgeois’ artistic practice and, later in life, allowed for an immediacy and freedom that was unavailable through sculpture.

Gerhard Richter

With its jewel-like surface and intimate scale, Gerhard Richter’s Val Fex (1992) is the fourth work in his Sils  series — a suite of overpainted photographs taken during the artist’s stays in the eponymous Swiss village. The works combine overpainting with frequently skewed angles and orientations, pushing their figurative subject matter to the brink of abstraction.

The early 1990s were a pivotal period in Richter’s career, witnessing the production of some of his finest works as well as a series of major exhibitions that propelled him onto the global stage. In many ways, the overpainted photographs were a natural product of this newfound success: after years of suspicion regarding mechanically produced images, here Richter tackles the photograph head-on, simultaneously effacing and celebrating its physical properties.

Sam Francis

Of all the Abstract Expressionists, Sam Francis was the most prolific graphic artist. He was also the most committed to the possibilities of printmaking, continually pushing the boundaries of the medium. His colours have a luxurious chromatic intensity. To achieve this effect, he layered thin coats of acrylic paint to create rich tones while still maintaining a watercolour-like delicacy. 

Untitled  marks a shift from Francis’s paintings of the late 1960s, possessing what curator Peter Selz called ‘an area of silence…characterised by a unique weightlessness’.

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