Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more


charcoal on paper
59 1/8 x 70 7/8in. (150 x 180cm.)
Executed in 2017
Galeria Plan B, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2018.
Berlin, Galeria Plan B, Adrian Ghenie Nightscape, 2018.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Measuring almost two metres in width, Untitled is a monumental example of the deconstructed pictorial language that lies at the heart of Adrian Ghenie’s practice. Rendered in charcoal on paper, Ghenie presents us with a complex configuration of twisting shapes, its roiling palimpsests of soot and jet black creating a masterfully dramatic chiaroscuro. Through bulbous, turbulent abstraction, the silhouette of a sleeping cat appears, its loosely rendered paw, tail and ears glitching into focus before we are thrust once again into the fray. A marvellous synergy of figuration and abstraction, the work is characterised by an illusionistic handling of space, continually offering new vantages of its metamorphic surface. Conjuring a momentous sense of tension, Untitled is rife with cinematic suspense, teasing us with a context which we are close to reaching but will forever fail to grasp. ‘I work on an image in an almost classical vein: composition, figuration, use of light’, Ghenie has commented. ‘On the other hand, I do not refrain from resorting to all kinds of idioms, such as the surrealist principle of association or the abstract experiments which foreground texture and surface’ (A. Ghenie, quoted in M. Radu, ‘Adrian Ghenie: Rise & Fall,’ Flash Art, December 2009, p. 49).

Untitled was featured in an exhibition titled Nightscape at Galeria Plan B, Berlin in 2017-2018, a gallery co-founded by Ghenie alongside Mihai Pop in 2005. Defined by memory and self-reflection, the Nightscape series was a homage to the shared beginnings of the gallery and Ghenie’s early practice. Following his first attempt to enrol at the University of Art and Design at the turn of the millennium, Ghenie had spent a year living at his grandmother’s house in Cluj, Romania, situated at the top of a hill which looked down at the bustling city. A crucially formative year, the artist’s time here was freed from social and educational constraints, and his fond memories of it mediated by things he ‘never found again in another place’ (A. Ghenie, quoted in ‘Adrian Ghenie: Nightscape Press Release’, Galeria Plan B, November 2017). Recalling the day-to-day of activities the period—memories of himself cooking meat, his mother smoking, and in Untitled, perhaps a cat asleep on the floor—these works presented his recollections with a great sense of magnitude, awarding a bold cinematic drama to otherwise mundane happenings. In Untitled, we are confronted with this most poignantly, its personal context lending the work a deep, palpable intimacy.

Born in Baia Mare, Romania in 1977, Ghenie was only a young boy when he became privy to a series of tumultuous political events, such as the execution of the country’s dictator Nicolae Ceausecu and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He was also a witness to the subsequent realisation that much of the information the nation had been fed for years prior had been twisted from reality, his upbringing characterised by a false, manufactured truth. This new cultural awakening manifested in Ghenie’s own practice, with his works offering a purposeful denouncement of established norms and tradition. ‘My generation knows what life was like before the Internet. And so you still happen to hear echoes of the old world when you wake up in the morning’, Ghenie explained during his representation of Romania at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. ‘... Then, you realize that the world is changing its texture, is changing its skin. I am very sensitive to this aspect’ (A. Ghenie, quoted in M. Radu, ibid, p. 32). Whilst highly individual, Ghenie’s practice bears traces of a host of artistic influences, and his oeuvre has often been interpreted as a complex blend of personal, political and art-historical references. Recalling the profound chiaroscuro of Caravaggio, the gestural brushstrokes of Willem de Kooning, and the smeared, ghostly passages of Francis Bacon—whilst simultaneously harking back to a deep personal memory of Cluj, his grandmother’s house evoking the atmosphere of living on the outskirts of the city in the old days—Untitled is a magnificent example of Ghenie’s masterful reinterpretation of history.

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