Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence, executed between 1993 and 1994, is the largest work within the artist’s celebrated sequence of Concrete Cabins. A crystalline vision of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, one of the most important modernist buildings of all time, the painting is the property of a private American collector who will give a significant portion of the proceeds from its sale at Christie’s to benefit The World Justice Project.
RELATED FEATUREVideo: Peter Doig’s Cabin Essence, 1993-1994Watch video
Following the record-breaking performance of Doig’s Swamped (1990) at Christie’s New York in May of this year, Cabin Essence will lead a week of Post War and Contemporary auctions at Christie’s London. Ahead of the auction on on 16 October, the work will be on view at Christie’s New York from 26 to 30 September and at Christie’s London from 10 October.
Cabin Essence was debuted as part of the original suite of Concrete Cabins at Victoria Miro Gallery, London in 1994. It was then shown at the Tate’s Turner Prize exhibition that same year, alongside the seminal work Ski Jacket (1994, now held in the Tate’s permanent collection), as well as the 1993 painting Pond Life and two earlier Concrete Cabins. It returned to Tate in 2008 as a centrepiece of Doig’s first major touring retrospective.
The Concrete Cabins series, created between 1991 and 1998, is of central significance to Doig’s practice; Concrete Cabin (1991-1992) — the first in the series — is currently housed in the Leicester Arts and Museum Service and Boiler House (1994) is a promised gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Most recently, Cabin Essence was shown as part of Foundation Beyeler’s (Basel) recent Peter Doig retrospective.
‘Whereas other buildings had represented a family or maybe a person somehow, this building seemed to represent thousands of people’ — Peter Doig
A monumentally scaled investigation into the mechanics of vision and memory, Cabin Essence is Doig’s portrayal of his experience when he travelled to take part in the restoration of Le Corbusier’s abandoned Unité d’Habitation at Briey-en-Forêt in northern France. His encounter with this derelict modernist utopia, seen through dense layers of trees, had a profound impact on his psyche and gave rise to a cycle of paintings based on his recollection of the event.
‘The building took me by surprise as a piece of architecture. But it was not until I saw the photograph I had taken of the building through the trees that it became interesting,’ Doig has said. ‘That made me go back and look at it again. I was surprised by the way the building transformed itself from a piece of architecture into a feeling. It was all emotion suddenly.’ The artist was only able to capture the sublime quality of this encounter by transforming original colour video footage, which was taken on location, into a sequence of black and white stills that were in turn photocopied into a book of blurred vignettes and only then finally translated into paint.
The painting is inscribed with thick passages of streaked impasto and bejewelled beads of colour that rain down upon this unearthly paradise. The visual impact of the work is finely balanced with an intricate web of reference and association that Doig has continued to employ throughout his oeuvre; recalling the Canadian pine forests of his youth at the same time as anticipating the Caribbean jungles to which he would turn his attention the following decade, as well as establishing a dialogue with the work of Richter and Bonnard, Munch, Mondrian and Cézanne.
‘Cabin Essence is quite simply the holy grail of Doig’s Concrete Cabins series’ — Francis Outred
‘At Christie’s we have been privileged to present some of Peter Doig’s greatest works,’ says Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI, ‘yet we have never had a work like this. One of the largest works made by Doig in the 1990s, it conjures an atmosphere that you could walk right into.’
‘There is such a wealth of art history referenced in the process and technique of the painting,’ Outred continues, ‘but ultimately it represents an entirely new means of figurative painting. Quite simply the holy grail of Doig’s Concrete Cabins; acquired by the present owner from the Turner Prize in 1994, it comes to auction for the first time with an outstanding museum exhibition history.’
As the leading auction house for Post War and Contemporary art, Christie’s brings together a line-up of world-class auctions during Frieze week. Together, the Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction, Italian Sale and the Day Sale bring the highest quality of art from 1945 to the present day and are an integral part of the most important week in London for the art world’s calendar.
Main image at top: Peter Doig (b. 1959), Cabin Essence, 1993-1994. Oil on canvas. 90 x 137¾in. (230 x 350cm.) This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 October at Christie’s London
For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily