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

Chained to the Bed for 15 Years

Chained to the Bed for 15 Years
titled ‘Chained to the bed for 15 years.’ (upper centre); signed and dated ‘Marlene Dumas. ‘86.’ (lower centre)
gouache and crayon on paper
46 5/8 x 115 3/8in. (118.4 x 292.9cm.)
Executed in 1986
Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam.
Jack Tilton Gallery, New York.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1990).
Anon. sale, Phillips London, 13 February 2020, lot 30.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Welling, ‘OMTREKKENDE BEWEGINGEN: Citaten uit brieven van Marlene Dumas’, in Artefactum, vol. 6, no. 27, February-March 1989 (illustrated, p. 33; dated '1986-1987').
Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, The Question of Human Pink, 1989.
New York, Jack Tilton Gallery, From Lynch to Lucier, 1990.
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.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Included in Marlene Dumas’ solo exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1989, Chained to the Bed for 15 Years is her first large-scale depiction of a male nude. Spanning almost three metres in width, this extraordinary work on paper captures her engagement with art-historical tradition at a pivotal moment in her early career. Working in gouache and crayon, Dumas presents a reclining naked man, his legs tied together at the foot of the bed. His limbs are terse and muscular, like a caricatured classical sculpture; his face is obscured from view. Executed in 1986, the work evokes the statue of the Bernini Faun at the Glypthothek in Munich, a photograph of which resides in Dumas’ archive. Recasting this lithe, languorous figure as the victim of erotic debauchery, the artist poses a challenge to centuries of female nudes painted under the male gaze. Sexualised and restrained against his will, her subject relinquishes his identity, becoming a silent prop for Dumas’ art.

Chained to the Bed for 15 Years has its roots in a series of ink drawings that Dumas made in 1986, entitled Cultivated emotion. Each depicted a reclining male nude staring rapturously at a framed painting on the wall. In the present work, the figure’s muse is removed: he himself becomes the object of the viewer’s scrutiny and desires. The drawing paved the way for the 1987 painting The Particularity of Nakedness (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), whose male subject is similarly laid bare before the viewer, this time his eyes meeting our gaze. The work takes its title from John Berger’s 1972 essay ‘Ways of Seeing’, which discusses the distinction between nakedness—the state of simply being oneself—and nudity, denoting the presence of an objectifying voyeur. The following year, Dumas would address this idea in explicit relation to the female nude: her series Defining in the Negative (1988) depicted women refusing to pose for famous male artists. They were no longer ‘chained to the bed’, awaiting activation by the viewer; instead, they were simply free to be naked. Dumas' portraits of Snow White, too—a figure who traditionally lay bound to her bed waiting for her prince to rescue her—engaged with similar themes.

Raised in South Africa during the apartheid regime before moving to Amsterdam, Dumas grew up with a keen awareness of violence and injustice. As an artist, she came of age amid second-wave feminism, defined by the critical perspectives of artists such as Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. Drawn from a vast archive of printed imagery, her practice would repeatedly address themes relating to the human body, sexuality and the power dynamics between subject, artist and viewer. Chained to the Bed for 15 Years demonstrates something of the raw, textural immediacy through which her works on paper would confront these issues: its visceral surface, loose crosshatchings and expressive fluidity imbue the figure with a sense of living, breathing vitality, resuscitating its source material from its flat printed state. At the same time, however, Dumas delights in the role-reversal at play. Her male figure takes on the texture of weathered rock or stone, his flesh marbled like granite. Bathed in semi-darkness, his form fades to the brink of abstraction, threatening to dissolve into the chiaroscuro. It is left to the viewer to decide whether to release him from his bonds, or to condemn him to another fifteen years of petrification.

More from 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale

View All
View All