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Haircut (Ben & Spencer)

Haircut (Ben & Spencer)
signed with artist's signature, titled and dated 'Haircut (Ben & Spencer) SEPT 2002' (on the reverse)
oil on board
30.8 x 23.4 cm. (12 1/8 x 9 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2002
Sadie Coles HQ, London
Acquired from the above by Marc Jacobs
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 October 2019, lot 583
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Gagosian/Rizzoli, Elizabeth Peyton, 2005 (illustrated, p. 196).
New York, Phaidon Press, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, 2010 (illustrated, p. 164).
London, Royal Academy of Art, The Galleries Show - Contemporary Art in London, September - October 2002.
New York, New Museum, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, 8 October 2008-11 January 2009. This exhibition also travelled to Minnesota, Walker Art Center, 14 February-13 June 2009; London, Whitechapel Gallery, 9 July-19 September 2009; Maastricht, Bonnefanten Museum, 18 October 2009-21 March 2010.

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Ada Tsui (徐文君)
Ada Tsui (徐文君) Vice President, Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 2002, Haircut (Ben and Spencer) captures an intimate moment of Ben and Spencer on a balcony by their dear friend and one of the most celebrated contemporary figurative painters Elizabeth Peyton. The American female painter is lauded for her portraitures dedicated to celebrities and her close companions with great attention to emotional detail, like the Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. In Haircut (Ben and Spencer), Peyton features two regular sitters in her works who are great friends in real life—Ben is a DJ who used to be her assistant in the early 2000s while Spencer is likely to be the artist friend Spencer Sweeney. Working both from life and with photographs, Peyton has rendered the two characters with strong androgynous features as with all her subjects. Slouching nonchalantly on the chair with his upper-body bare, Ben seems to be completely relaxed with the moustached Spencer trimming his hair—except that his ear and forehead are reddened, flushing and blushing under his overdue bangs. In high contrast to the quasi-balcony filled with a pitch-dark background and in his stark black jeans, Ben’s pale skin and slender built strip away the last bits of masculine stereotype. The presentation is raw and unprocessed, exposing the inner vulnerabilities that Ben has in Peyton’s eyes for she said ‘I think people’s faces look how they do from a lot of internal conscious decision making or even just the movements, how they use their face—it has to do with their emotional character’ (E. Peyton: quoted in U. Schumann, Elizabeth Peyton: “History is Contained within People”, The Talks, 2018).

Elizabeth Peyton reinvigorated portraiture in the 90s when it was largely under-valued. She explores and revives the beauty of Romantic portraitures in contemporary manner by developing her own language with the female gaze. In doing so, she has democratised the genre that has long been dedicated to people in power or with great wealth – or both. A quintessential portrait by Peyton that was formerly housed in the Fashion designer Marc Jacob’s collection, Haircut (Ben and Spencer) was also featured in Peyton’s mid-career retrospective Live Forever that travelled across four cities between 2008 and 2010. Attesting to Peyton’s status in the contemporary art world, she had another major retrospective at London’s National Portrait Gallery and UCCA, Beijing between 2019 and 2020. Her works are widely collected by leading public institutions and collections, such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and The Museum of Modern Art in New York which houses more than 30 works by the artist.

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