JULIO GALÁN (1958-2006)
JULIO GALÁN (1958-2006)
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JULIO GALÁN (1958-2006)

El Hermano (The Eggplant Boy and the Santa Claus Girl)

JULIO GALÁN (1958-2006)
El Hermano (The Eggplant Boy and the Santa Claus Girl)
signed, titled and dated 'Julio Galán "EL HERMANO" '85" (left panel lower right); signed again and inscribed variously 'JULIO GALÁN' (on the reverse)
diptych—oil and antique ornaments on canvas
69 x 96 in. (175.3 x 243.8 cm.)
Executed in 1985.
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich, acquired directly from the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, Hayward Gallery and Kunsthalle Wien, Doubletake: Collective Memory & Current Art/Kollektives Gedächtnis & heutige Kunst, February 1992-February 1993, p. 158 (illustrated).
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey; Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno and Miami, Center for the Fine Arts, Julio Galán: Exposición Retrospectiva/Retrospective Exhibition, September 1993-July 1994, p. 167 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Snapshots taken in 1985 of Julio Galán’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen where he painted El Hermano (The Eggplant Boy and Santa Claus Girl) record the emerging artist’s live-work space on a fourth-floor walk-up at 45th Street and 10th Avenue. Hanging on his walls, paintings El niño platano and La niña enfrutada present playful, encoded, juxtapositions of ripe fruit, vegetables, and costumed-self, an approach Galán echoes in El Hermano, which can be read as a double self-portrait. To achieve a large-scale painting in these cramped quarters, Galán resorted to joining 6 x 4-foot canvases into diptychs, with dynamic results apparent not only in El Hermano, but in the contemporaneous Mientras me despierto, and Sí puedes pero no debes. All painted in 1985, Andy Warhol passed up such canvases when he selected El Hermano for himself in trade for a portrait that he would produce of Galán (T. Eckmann, in conversation with Paige Powell, October 20, 2022; and Silvia Cherem, “Los secretos del dolor: Entrevista con Julio Galán” Julio Galán: Pensando en ti, Monterrey, 2007, p. 306-307). Certainly, the painting’s pop sensibility and gender-fluidity would have appealed to the King of Pop Art.
Arriving in New York City in the summer of 1984, Galán had left behind his familiar home of Monterrey, Mexico and a potential career in architecture to pursue his painting in self-imposed exile. Fashion designer Nicole Miller recognized Galán’s talent, purchased his first New York painting Paseo por Nueva York con dolor de cabeza y barajas de la lotería (1984), and hung it in her Tribeca loft, where its visibility led to Galán’s securing additional patronage, exhibition opportunities, and friendship from Miller’s acquaintances, including Edith deAk, Francesco Pellizzi, and Warhol’s assistant and the editor of Interview Magazine, Paige Powell (T. Eckmann, personal communication with Nicole Miller, October 13, 2010).
Powell recounts that in May of 1985, she organized the first solo exhibition of Galán’s work at an upper east side apartment (T. Eckmann, in conversation, October 20, 2022). On opening day, with artwork, invited guests and bartender at the ready, the event was forcibly cancelled when the co-op’s Board of Directors forbid the public exhibition from taking place (ibid.). Fortunately, Mexican ambassador Joaquín Bernal offered Powell the Consul General gallery on the sixth floor at 8 E. 41st Street for Galán’s work; the exhibition’s opening-day, September 19, 1985, tragically coincided with the severe magnitude-8.0 earthquake that struck Mexico City. The following fall of 1986 Powell organized another solo show for the artist in her friend deAk’s 3500 square-foot apartment on 149 Wooster Street. At the opening, Galán photographed Warhol, camera in hand in front of Niño con lengua plateada (1985).
“We had a lot in common. We went together to the flea markets…he invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. At some point I visited The Factory,” Galán recalled in 2000 of his encounters with Warhol (in José Garza, “Julio Galán: Soy adicto a mi,” Fuego al museo: perfiles y entrevistas con pintores contemporáneos, Sinaloa, 2013, p. 81). Powell relates that Warhol bartered with Galán for El Hermano during a visit to Galán’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment; the canvas was transported to Warhol’s last “Factory” at the Consolidated Edison Substation on 33rd Street and Madison Avenue (T. Eckmann, personal communication, October 20, 2022). Garza, who interviewed Galán repeatedly during the 1990s adds that in late December 1986, Warhol took Polaroids of Galán for the portrait he would create of the painter (J. Garza, “Julio Galán,” op. cit.). But before he could fulfill the trade, Warhol unexpectedly died in February 1987. “I distinctly remember that Andy told me numerous times that he needed to find time to do Julio's portrait,” Powell reflects (T. Eckmann, personal communication, October 21, 2022). In discussion with Powell, Galán considered accepting Warhol’s Mao, but preferred to recuperate his own painting from Warhol’s estate (J. Garza, “Julio Galán,” op. cit.). Gallerist Annina Nosei, who represented Galán from 1989-1998, in a fax to the artist dated September 16, 1994 commented on Galán’s having arranged to sell El Hermano to Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann in exchange for a Francesco Clemente watercolor (Annina Nosei Gallery Archives, MSS 298 Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries). Of note, also is that in another fax dated March 26, 1997, Nosei listed El Hermano as one of eight paintings of Galán’s that she considered to be his best, emphasizing that “as an art historian, I am well aware of your best works” (ibid.).
Remarkable is the hand-written cryptic text addressed to Warhol that covers the entire verso of both sides of the diptych. Such an action is evident elsewhere in Galán’s oeuvre, his recognizable script on the versos of Self-Portrait with Black Work Shoes (1990) and El retrato de Rafael (1991), for example. The artist also at times wrote music lyrics in cursive on the back of his canvases, as he did with Tehuana en el Ismo de Tehuantepec (1987). With references to the sky, dreams, forever, the beyond, wings, the sea, death, the soul, and God, it is possible, that Galán added the text when El Hermano was returned to him shortly after Warhol’s death; in contemplating the artist’s passing and an after-life, he may have been moved to dialogue with Warhol in his secret, invented language—the rebus format that Galán, who enjoyed games, wordplay, and puzzles, deployed so often in his art.
Teresa Eckmann, Associate Professor of Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Texas at San Antonio

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