MARTIN KIPPENBERGER (1953-1997)
MARTIN KIPPENBERGER (1953-1997)
GÜNTHER UECKER (B. 1930)
MARTIN KIPPENBERGER (1953-1997)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION
GÜNTHER UECKER (B. 1930)

Kleines Nagelbild - Weiss (Small Nail Picture - White)

Details
GÜNTHER UECKER (B. 1930)
Kleines Nagelbild - Weiss (Small Nail Picture - White)
oil and nails on canvas laid on board
14 x 14 5/8 x 1 5/8in. (35.6 x 37.2 x 4.2cm.)
Executed in 1959
Provenance
Fänn and Willy Schniewind Colletion, Neviges.
Private Collection, Hesse.
Anon. sale, Grisebach GmBH Berlin, 30 May 2008, lot 59.
Private Collection, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009.
Exhibited
Wuppertal, Kunst- und Museumsverein, Hommage à Fontana, 1969, no. 76.
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.
Further details
This work is registered in the Uecker Archiv under the number GU.59.012 and will be noted for inclusion in the forthcoming Uecker Catalogue Raisonné.

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Anna Touzin Specialist, Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Executed in 1959, Kleines Nagelbild - Weiss (Small Nail Picture - White) is an early example of Günther Uecker’s celebrated nail paintings. A grid-like network of nails is set into a surface of luminous white oil paint, their vertiginous forms punctuating and extending beyond the edges of the canvas. The nails, too, are coated in white. Dating from the outset of his career, the work presages Uecker’s official collaboration with the Zero Group from 1961-66, a movement in which, alongside his contemporaries Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, he sought to reinvent post-war art from a state of blank purity. ‘It was from the start an open domain of possibilities, and we speculated with the visionary form of purity, beauty, and stillness’, Uecker recalled. ‘These things moved us greatly. This was perhaps also a very silent and at the same time very loud protest against Expressionism, against an expression-oriented society’ (G. Uecker, quoted in D. Honisch, Uecker, New York 1983, p. 14). In 1969, the painting was shown alongside works by Mack, Piene, Piero Manzoni, Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi in Hommage à Fontana at the Kunst- und Museumsverein Wuppertal. Organised following his death in 1968, the group exhibition paid tribute to Lucio Fontana, whose ideas had a profound influence on the Zero artists and their associates.

In its orderly, grid-like network of nails, Kleines Nagelbild - Weiss and other early works owe much to the lesser known ‘Unism’ movement, a group inaugurated by Kazimir Malevich’s student Wladislaw Strzeminski, which advocated for a pictorial harmony of colour, geometry and rhythm. In 1957, Uecker had also been exposed to Yves Klein’s monochromes for the first time. This formative encounter inspired his decision to blanket his own paintings in even white paint or kaolin, creating luminous fields of light and shadow. ‘My works acquire their reality through light,’ he later said. ‘Their intensity is changeable due to the light impinging on them which, from the viewer's standpoint, is variable’ (G. Uecker, quoted in ibid., p. 60). By hammering nails into his works, Uecker further transformed his monochromes into animated fields of movement, creating a series of dynamic, lyrical surfaces that straddled painting and sculpture.

By selecting the humble nail as his signature medium, a material laden with associations of human labour, the artist made reference to his upbringing as a ‘farm boy’ on the Baltic island of Wustrow. The nail had a further personal resonance for Uecker, too. ‘As the front closed [during WWII]’, he explains, ‘I barricaded my house from within, which was only an illusion of safety, of course. But nevertheless, it definitely gave an emotional feeling of protection. And this is what the nails represent in my work: on the one hand a defence, like ruffled hair, like a hedgehog curling up into a ball, but on the other hand tenderness’ (G Uecker, quoted in ‘Interview with Günther Uecker’, in Günther Uecker: The Early Years, exh. cat., L & M Arts, New York, 2011, pp. 8-9). Conjured from nothing more than canvas, pigment and nails, Kleines Nagelbild - Weiss is a striking early example of the elemental magnetism that would come to lie at the core of Uecker’s practice.

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