AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
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AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)


AGNES MARTIN (1912-2004)
acrylic and graphite on canvas
60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm.)
Executed circa 1999-2000
David and Renze Nesbit, New Mexico (acquired from the artist, 2000).
Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2015, lot 7.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
T. Bell, ed., Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings (, no. 1999.043 (illustrated in color).
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. This is such a lot.

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Lot Essay

Painted at the dawn of a new millennium, and during a period regarded as the pinnacle of Agnes Martin’s prodigious career, Untitled emerges as a sublime example of the artist’s singular vision. For more than forty years, Martin created serene paintings composed of poetic grids and stripes; with almost religious devotion and her distinctive attention to the subtleties of line, surface, tone, and proportion, she created a visual language that expresses quiet magnitudes in spite of their seemingly simple façades. In its majestic scale, patient precision, and joyous infusion of color, Untitled is a stand-out painting from an extraordinary body of work.
Experiencing Untitled is perhaps akin to the visual sensation of looking away after peering at the sun for a moment too long; our overwhelmed receptors are often slow to reacclimate from the intense light, causing memories of color to momentarily dance across our field of vision, dressing our immediate surroundings in a hazy glow. With its rhythmic stripes of pale blue, soft apricot, and chalky yellow, Untitled similarly draws in the viewer with a magnetic pull. From afar, one nearly squints to make out the faint washes of color from the ground, but once firmly inside the painting’s orbit, the subtle striations come alive. Indeed, as the powdery hues fall in line before the viewer, Untitled hushes its surrounding environs to envelop its audience in a radiant energy, and the colors of the canvas suddenly seem to exist more truthfully within our eyes than on the painted surface.
While the palette and horizontality of Untitled do seem to conjure images of sunrise or sunset, Martin was keen to point out that her compositions are not intended to be direct depictions of nature or its many forms. “A lot of people say that my work is like landscape. But the truth is that it isn’t because there are no straight lines in nature. My work is non-objective, like that of the Abstract Expressionists. But I want people, when they look at my paintings, to have the same feelings they experience when they look at a landscape so I never protest when they say my work is like a landscape. But it’s really about a feeling of beauty and freedom, that you experience in a landscape” (quoted in I. Sandler, Art Monthly, no. 169, September, 1993).
Indeed, while her work has been linked to Minimalism, Martin herself felt aligned most with the Abstract Expressionists. By 1967, when she famously left behind New York and its relentless art scene in exchange for the tranquility and isolation of New Mexico, Martin had already garnered significant attention from emerging Minimalist artists like Donald Judd (who wrote about her work twice), Carl Andre, and Sol LeWitt. Ultimately, however, her art was not an intellectual exercise, but an emotional one. The grid, and later, the stripes, would become for Martin what the color-field became for Mark Rothko, what the "zip" became for Barnett Newman, or what paint, itself, became for Ad Reinhardt: a compositional motif as gateway to convey subjective states and to intimate the existence of other, higher realities.
Speaking of Martin’s mature body of work, Olivia Laing notes, “It isn’t easy to catch the workings of these paintings in words, since they were designed to dodge the burden of representation, to stymie the viewer in their incorrigible habit of searching for recognizable forms in the abstract field. They aren’t meant to be read, but rather responded to, enigmatic triggers for a spontaneous upwelling of pure emotion” (Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, New York, 2020, p. 24). About everything and nothing all at once, superbly balanced and resonating with a quiet bliss, Untitled is a supreme example of this very divine ambiguity which exists at the core of Martin’s best and most sophisticated work. When a painting is powerful, we can’t help but to analyze every square-inch of the surface—every singular brushstroke—in an effort to uncover the very thing which incites such a rare emotional response. Untitled, however, defies language and logic. Ultimately there is no visual analysis, nor biographical analysis, which could do the painting justice, or could somehow articulate the reality of its presence. As Martin, herself, once wrote, “You wouldn’t think of form by the ocean” (quoted in A. Wilson, "Linear Webs," Art and Artists, 1:7, October 1966, p. 49).

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