Bon appétit: 12 artists who are whetting our appetite this season
Enticing works from the Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale featuring food, glorious food!
From the sumptuous spiralling lemon peels in the still-lifes of the Dutch Golden Age to the homey yet monumental burger sculptures of Claes Oldenburg, food has long been a favoured subject of artists seeking to engage the senses.
The upcoming Post-War & Contemporary Day Sale on 18 November at Christie’s New York features a visual feast of culinary artworks in a range of styles spanning conceptual, figurative, contemporary and Pop art. Here’s a taste!
Claes Oldenburg is best known for his inviting, theatrical sculptures of everyday objects, especially iconic American comfort foods like burgers, cake and — perhaps most delectable of all — ice cream. His Ice Cream Sundae on a Tray (1962) comprises a plaster and enamel sundae in a bowl with a dish, spoon and napkin on a tray. The life-size dessert shines with an alluring gloss of syrup and toppings. Ice cream proved an enduring subject for Oldenburg, who that same year created Floor Cone, a large-scale soft sculpture that currently resides in the Museum of Modern Art.
Building on his famous 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol expanded his screen-printing into the realm of sculpture to create his Campbell’s Tomato Juice Boxes as part of The Factory’s first series in the Spring of 1964. Rendered in the brilliant red of the Campbell’s logo, the boxes continued Warhol’s deft toggling between pop culture and high art, combining arrestingly simple visual graphics with conceptual complexity.
This pair of Campbell’s Tomato Juice Boxes from the Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann represents one of the finest examples of Warhol’s early sculptures, which probes the artist’s fascination with mass-produced foodstuffs and branding.
Coca Cola Vase comes from Ai Weiwei’s longest running series, in which the Chinese dissident artist paints the ubiquitous soda logo onto ancient Chinese vases, generating a provocative juxtaposition between the contrasting aesthetics and values of traditional Chinese culture and corporate globalization. In this example, the famous Coca-Cola red script loops around a Neolithic vessel; the anachronistic branding of the object raises critical questions about the political and cultural clashes accompanying modernization.
An artist and musician based in London, Issy Wood has made a name for herself with neo-Surrealist depictions of everyday objects imbued with dark humour. The painter has described herself as ‘suspicious of symmetry’ — a sentiment on full display in Serves You Right, in which lumpy floating tableware obscures a mysterious figure’s face.
In Wood’s words, ‘I suppose I’m questioning how well I know the shapes of these objects … and that strange translation from what I meant to do and what actually happens.’
This year has seen a market frenzy for paintings by the Canadian-born painter Anna Weyant, whose figurative work Summertime soared past its estimate to achieve $1,500,000 at Christie’s in May. Two Tight Buns exudes the sly and suggestive style for which the artist has become known. In this surreal still-life, two hotdogs make a snug pair — one carved like a tree with lovers’ initials.
This work, offered in Loisaida: 1980s Graffiti and Street Art from the John P. Axelrod Collection, was produced in 1982, the year that marked Jean-Michel Basquiat’s first solo exhibition in New York and his definitive initiation into the international art world.
Rendered in oilstick on paper, Untitled features the artist’s expressive mark-making and signature iconography. From the words broken glass to a pollo frito sandwich to his famous three-pointed crown, Basquiat elevates the grit and texture of the Lower East Side graffiti scene to high art.
Featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s seminal retrospective David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night, Tuna is a sublime example of the artist’s early supermarket poster series, in which he salvaged ‘Sale of the Week’ advertisements from the trash and altered their surfaces.
Emblazoned with acrylic paint and paper collage, the work depicts two views of a shootout — a closeup of a rugged cowboy is inset with a visceral depiction of a headless victim. Working against a backdrop of mass consumerism, Wojnarowicz exposes the violent roles expected of men, as perpetuated through tropes of masculinity found in Westerns and other popular media.
The pumpkin — or, kabocha in Japanese — provides a central motif in Yayoi Kusama’s colourful and wide-ranging oeuvre. The artist first featured her favourite vegetable in a 1949 painting executed in the nihonga style incorporating traditional Japanese techniques.
The squash reemerged in Kusama’s works in the 1970s and beyond, with more whimsical style. The 1985 sculpture on offer, bedecked with polka dots, reflects the ‘humorous form, warm feeling’ and anthropomorphic qualities that Kusama describes as the basis for her love of all things pumpkin.
The Austrian artist Franz West sculpts unconventional objects that provoke curiosity and often encourage audience participation. From the esteemed collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann, the solid yet airy Untitled, executed in aluminium, wood and dispersion, suggests a banana ripe for the plucking.
For this series of works about choice, the conceptual artist John Baldessari asked a participant to select three from a larger group of like objects ‘for whatever reasons he or she might have at the moment.’ From there the artist would remove two objects and then replace them with new options, beginning the selection process over again with a new participant.
The seven photographs that make up the present work document the game as played with turnips. According to Baldessari, ‘Each of the participants develops strategies unknown to the other player as the selection process continues until all the [turnips] are used.’ Imbued with absurdist humour, Choosing probes the enigmatic process of artistic decision-making.
Completed just one year after the Mexican artist Julio Galán arrived in New York City, El Hermano (The Eggplant Boy and the Santa Claus Girl) was originally selected by Andy Warhol for his personal collection, as evidenced by a text addressed to the Pop artist that spans the versos of both canvases in this large-scale diptych.
Now coming directly from the collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann, the beguiling composition with a gender-fluid sensibility is part of a series of paintings depicting figures costumed in ripe fruit.
In this 2011 work by the contemporary painter Oscar Murillo, the word Pizza is smeared almost like sauce across the canvas, which is further marked in oil, oilstick, printed paper collage, graphite and dirt. In a 2013 interview, Murillo described the words included in his paintings as ‘displaced’ — the text, removed from its context, suggests movement and exchange, generating unexpected resonances with the expressive linework and washes of colour.
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