NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
1 More
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
4 More
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)

Still Life

Details
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
Still Life
soft pastel on linen
59 x 74 ¾ in. (150 x 190 cm.)
Executed in 2015.
Provenance
The Modern Institute, Glasgow
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of the 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Fresh from the critical acclaim of his current installation at New York’s Frick Collection, Nicolas Party has cemented his status as one of the most important contemporary artists working today. Executed on a large scale, at nearly five feet by six feet, Still Life is rare in the history of its titular genre, which often focuses on smaller scenes meant to evoke the domestic interior. The present work, with its alluring, textured pigments and sensual forms, exemplifies Party’s unparalleled sensitivity to color and his mastery of pastel.

Unlike the static still lifes with which we are most familiar, the present work is highly sculptural, embodied, monumental, and textured. Still Life is among Party’s most significant investigations of this genre. Its fruits nestle together, overlap each other, and yet seem also to merge together even as they retain their individuality. The tactile qualities of the pastel medium enlivens the scene, as if a still life has transformed into flesh. Reminiscent of the milky hues of Chinese porcelain, the blue and cream background lends a subtle, earthy beauty.

The liveliness of these objects engenders an engrossing scene. As Party states, “I really like the word ‘still life’. Something alive, but with no movement” (N. Party, quoted in R. Vitorelli, “Interview Nicolas Party,” Spike Art Magazine, Summer 2015). While there are clear associations with Cezanne, the evocative palette also brings to mind the essence of surrealism and the uncanny—a realm between life and death, the real and the unreal. A comparison of Still Life with Surrealist paintings is certainly apt, but this particular work also has much in common with Italian artist Giorgio Morandi’s work, which seems to exist in a world just outside our own. Party channels Morandi’s Natura morta (1920), which, like Still Life, also features a gorgeously shaped apple. Yet Party makes art history his own; instead of the muted tones that characterize Morandi’s paintings, Party instead opts for colors that reflect his spirited practice.

Party’s revival of the still life for our moment has as much to do with the medium he chooses as what he depicts. His work is currently on view at the Frick Collection, New York, where he has created an installation responding to the eighteenth century pastel masterpiece, Portrait of a Man in Pilgrim’s Costume (c. 1730) by Rosalba Carriera. Still Life connects to this long history of the use of pastel, which has been praised for its deep pigments and lustrous corporeality. The eighteenth-century saw an increased interest in pastels, driven by Carriera, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, and Jean Baptiste Greuze, which were often created as site-specific commissions for aristocratic interiors. Party is an expert on this history. He notes, “Pastel paintings from 1760 to 2019 were all in conversation with each other in an environment specially designed for them” (N. Party, quoted in J. Lee, “Nicolas Party by Jonathan Lee,” BOMB Magazine, May 27, 2020). Perhaps the most prominent pastel artists are Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso (the latter was particularly influential for Party). Still Life vibrates with the same lifelike motion of Degas’s Danseuses à la barre (c. 1880) and Trois danseuses (c. 1900), and it exhibits the materiality of Picasso’s L’Etreinte (The Embrace) (1903) and La liseuse (1921). It is important to note that these pastels are figure drawings and portraits, making Party’s use of the medium for a still life even more fascinating.

Party’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan (2022), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2022), and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2021). In addition, he has also completed major commissions for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Despite the seeming languidness of Still Life, it is in fact brimming with immediacy, the result of Party’s meticulous and expressive pastels. He observes, “If you work with paint, you kind of imagine a color or you work a color while you’re doing it. You have to make it to see it. In pastel, it’s right there” (N. Party, quoted in “Nicolas Party: Pastel,” Ursula Magazine, June 29, 2022). Proficient in many media, Still Life represents his most cherished relationship. It is paradigmatic of the artist’s technical skill, as well as his knowledge of and appreciation for art history. Yet he complements this rigor with rainbow bursts of color, and he is unafraid to reformulate the wonderfully over-the-top Rococo style for our contemporary moment. Perhaps most of all, Party is unafraid to revel in beauty.

More from 21st Century Evening Sale

View All
View All