A visit with ADAM
From painting and sculpture, to decorative and digital arts, this rule-bending Christie's exhibition accesses the brilliant eye of a legendarily prescient collector, gallerist and curator
In a 2010 profile in The New York Times, ADAM declared contemporary art a ‘wild bet on the future.’ This was at the end of a decade in which he collected many of the most emblematic art and design trophies of the day. Now, a rare selection of those contemporary masterworks is on offer in an eponymous evening sale at Christie’s in New York.
ADAM has never shied away from boldly championing new talent and betting on the most ambitious, pathbreaking art, often at an institutional scale. Highlights from his personal collection represent pivotal moments in the careers of the artists who created them, working at the height of their powers, works that have come to define the artists’ oeuvres.
On 9 March 2023, 37 objects will be offered at Christie’s in New York as part of ADAM: Works from the Collection of Adam Lindemann, with a portion of proceeds earmarked to support the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing for art of the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and North, Central and South America at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
‘Adam Lindemann is a person with a breadth of interests, an appreciation for depth of knowledge, and a trailblazer who embraces the unconventional and yet recognises creations of enduring power. Those qualities led him to his appreciation of the beauty, complexity, and diversity of the collections and program based in the Met's Michael C. Rockefeller Wing,’ says Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge of The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. ‘We are thrilled that he was among the first donors to pledge his support for the naming of one of those new spaces under way.’
From Richard Prince’s painted El Camino to Beeple’s erotic NFT portrait of Madonna, highlights of ADAM will included coveted works that surprise and challenge, among them a monumental Paul McCarthy phallic sculpture and an enchanting and enigmatic small painting by the late Lebanese author and artist Etel Adnan.
Both low to high
‘I always aspired to collect works of historic impact, once-in-a-lifetime objects that define not only a great collection, but also the art of connoisseurship,’ ADAM tells Christie’s. ‘While [people are] rushing for the newest thing that everyone else wants, I’m going for the works that no one else is really paying attention to, the art and design that the world’s most insightful and daring museum curators are looking at.’
In the ADAM sale, Jeff Koons’s Ushering in Banality (1988) is a perfect example of that collecting principle. ‘This sculpture is the key work in a landmark series that came to define the artist’s entire practice and secured his place in art history,’ he says. ‘In a sense, Koons’s entire oeuvre is about the banality of the everyday. Here, he elevates a commonplace figurine from the depths of mass averageness to the pinnacle of high art, pointing to the slippery line that separates kitsch and genius.’
ADAM’s special talent for mixing genres is seen throughout the sale. A Calder masterpiece lives with a grade society figure from Vanuatu and a 1960s Andy Warhol Electric Chair in a meditation on power and godliness.
Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled (2010), a monumental canvas in gold, represents a rethinking of the monochrome in contemporary art and exemplifies this celebrated artist’s greatest triumph. In the words of ADAM, ‘When 21st century art history is written, Stingel’s great contribution will be noted in his reinterpretation of the monochrome paradigm that has coursed through the centuries, and he’ll join the ranks of predecessors Robert Ryman and Ellsworth Kelly.’
Urs Fischer’s last supper (2014) offers another striking example of an artist defying and reworking artistic convention. Based on a clay sculpture originally finished by the museum audience at MOCA in Los Angeles in 2013 as part of his YES series, this bronze cast reworks Warhol’s famous reinterpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci. In Fischer’s three-dimensional version, the original bread and wine of Christ and his disciples have become McDonald’s French fries and cans of beer. Along the table are scatterings of half-eaten fruit, chicken bones and a wad of cash, in a brilliant commentary on the gradual but inevitable consumption and digestion of even the most exalted masterpieces of the past.
Combining design and architecture
The ADAM sale mingles painting and sculpture with classic icons of 20th century decorative art by such legends as Jean Royère and Pierre Paulin, capturing the unique atmosphere of the collector’s own private residence — itself a famous work of contemporary architecture.
In 2007, ADAM commissioned British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye to design his first building in Manhattan. An abandoned Park Avenue carriage house was demolished to make way for the six-story ‘House for a Collector.’ Hidden behind the original 1897 carriage house façade is a poured in place concrete interpretation of Marcel Breuer’s original Whitney Museum building, Adjaye’s architecture is a radical structure akin to a private museum one can fully inhabit. Here, ADAM’s approach to collecting flourished in an environment that encourages dialogue between art, architecture, design and the historic arts of Africa and Oceania, another of ADAM’s longstanding passions.
The complete, iconic ‘Ours Polaire’ (polar bear) sofa set by Royère, on offer in ADAM, is the only lime green (vert délavé) set in its original and unrestored fabric (tissue d’origine) — a true standout in the canon of existing, complete Royère sets. With full provenance stretching back to the original owner in the 1950s, this grouping stands apart as an undisputed treasure of the sale.
‘It’s completely original and in a unique, amazing colour…a holy grail for a true connoisseur collector,’ says ADAM.
The interesting and unexpected
This emphasis on singularity is another tenet of the ADAM approach, one that is embodied by Damien Hirst’s 1997-1998 The Sleep of Reason, the most important of the artist’s famous Medicine Cabinets. Here, Hirst raises questions about obsolescence, decay and death which constitute the core of his practice. Hirst’s prized early works of this period are also in a direct dialogue with minimalism, evoking but critiquing the achievements of such masters as Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt, while maintaining an active dialogue with Pop Art.
This monumental cabinet is one of the original three installation sculptures that defined Hirst’s infamous Pharmacy restaurant in London; the other two examples remain in the personal collection of the artist himself and a European museum, respectively.
From Takashi Murakami to Wade Guyton and Richard Prince, ‘I was once told that your collection is a picture of yourself, of who you are as a person, if it’s done properly,’ ADAM explains. ‘I value originality and love surprises. Whether it is an Andra Ursuța or a Ducati, I want this sale to capture that spirit — some blue chips masterpieces, some potent niche highlights and a touch of the unexpected.’
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