SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)
SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)
SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)
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SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION
SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)


SIGMAR POLKE (1941-2010)
signed and dated 'S. Polke 2002' (lower right)
spray enamel, acrylic, artificial resin and dispersion on fabric, in artist's frame
52 7/8 x 60 3/4in. (134.4 x 154.3cm.)
Executed in 2002
Private Collection, Denmark (acquired directly from the artist).
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Copenhagen, Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Sigmar Polke – Works from a decade, 2010 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
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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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

With its layers of liquid abstraction, figurative imagery and translucent texture, the present work is a vibrant example of Sigmar Polke’s painterly psychedelics. A fine honeycomb mesh embosses the surface, which has been sealed in clear golden resin. On the polyester support beneath are human figures, transposed from a medieval manuscript. They are largely obscured by milky white pigment, which drips and pours across the picture plane in different directions. Tendrilled pools of crimson, blue and viridian bloom to the lower left. The raised, cellular screen is visible amid the fluid colours, breaking them up into pixel-like units. This structural device recalls the trademark Rasterbilder Polke began making in the 1960s, which mimicked the dots of halftone printing. The picture can also be viewed from the reverse, revealing more chivalric figures amid a resinous, caramel mass. Created in 2002, the work captures the relentless experimentation and material complexity of Polke’s later practice, in which he continued to explore shapeshifting, ambiguous ways of seeing. That same year, Polke was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for Painting—Japan’s most prestigious international art prize—and a major exhibition of his recent work opened at the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, before travelling to Tate Modern, London.

Polke, who had emigrated as a child from East to West Germany in 1953, mistrusted fixed, authoritarian systems in any form, and his works were themselves purposefully indefinite and unstable. His paintings offered feedback on a world conveyed by mass media, their complex, hybrid imagery and techniques capturing the visual cascade of magazines, advertising, tabloids and television. From the Pop-adjacent beginnings of the ‘Capitalist Realism’ movement he co-founded with Gerhard Richter in Düsseldorf in 1963, he took his vision in diverse, dizzying directions. He travelled widely, experimented with hallucinogens, and made inventive use of everything from oils and acrylics to photography, arcane chemicals, patterned textiles, glow-in-the-dark pigment, holographic lenses and Xerox machines. The transformations of translucency, which he had discovered during a youthful apprenticeship in a stained glass factory, retained a special importance throughout his practice.

The diversity and flux in Polke’s work was ideological as well as visual. Many of the works he made in 2002—in the aftermath of 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan—offered nuanced reflections on conflict and surveillance. The present painting’s figures derive from a fourteenth-century image of ‘The Siege of the Castle of Love’, in which maidens defend themselves by throwing flowers at romancing knights. Polke’s picture might appear playful or violent: it coheres, comes apart and reveals new details when viewed from afar or up close, and changes completely when seen from the other side. Everything shifts, Polke reminds us, according to one’s perspective. ‘He agitates against the power of representation to fix and kill,’ wrote Katy Siegel in 2003: ‘against the power of dogma, overviews, histories, and authorities to order and push people around’ (K. Siegel, ‘Sigmar Polke: Dallas Museum of Art’, Artforum, May 2003, p. 166).

In Polke’s exhibitions in Dallas and London, many paintings shared the complex layering of the present work, featuring resinous, pellucid surfaces—often with stretcher-bars visible through them—and meshes of snakeskin-like pattern. ‘Some of these paintings do not so much appear to be glazed or covered in old varnish,’ observed Adrian Searle, ‘but to be made of these organic, glutinous substances. This is the sort of thing weaker artists would turn into some arresting “look”. In Polke’s case, they’re more a metaphor: the painting as trap, as flypaper’ (A. Searle, ‘Moving Targets’, The Guardian, 1 October 2003). In the present work, the analogy might be extended to painting as honeytrap. Polke toys with the classical vision of painting as window onto an illusory world: he presents both the seductive illusion and the iridescent, psychedelic splendours of the window as real, holding endless, simultaneous possibilities in play.

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