Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012)
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Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012)

Marró i blanc amb dos claus (Brown and White and Two Nails)

Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012)
Marró i blanc amb dos claus (Brown and White and Two Nails)
signed 'tapies' (on the reverse)
oil and cement on board with fabric and nails
106 ¼ x 78 ¾in. (270 x 200cm.)
Executed in 1974
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Galeria Maeght, Barcelona.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. Marín-Medina, Tàpies / Meditaciones, Madrid 1976 (illustrated in colour, p. 43).
A. Agustí, Tàpies, The Complete Works, Volume 3: 1969-1975, Barcelona 1992, p. 560, no. 2745 (illustrated in colour, p. 387).
Barcelona, Galeria Maeght, Tàpies, obra recent, 1975, no. 9.
Zurich, Galerie Maeght, Ta'pies, Peintures, gouaches, 1975, no. 6.
Barcelona, Galeria Maeght, Tàpies, 1987, no. 15.
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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.

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Lot Essay

‘Sometimes people have the idea that art should be highly refined. But I always believed that one could make art out of simple, humble things…Small things can be transcendental. They can change our way of looking at the world. I think it’s important to make art out of almost anything’ – Antoni Tàpies

A dense, endless brown covers Antoni Tàpies’ monumental Morró i blanc amb dos claus (Brown and White and Two Nails). At the top, a single band of white fabric is nailed to the board, a strip of light against the darkness. The painting seems to have been plucked from the Catalonian streetscapes of his childhood, a labyrinth of posted fliers pinned to the crumbling city walls. Fittingly, Tàpies means ‘walls’ in Catalan, and the artist was endlessly fascinated by how the architectural motif could be used as an instrument of expression; his was an aesthetic rooted in the urban landscape. The painting is richly physical, in part owing to a deliberately restrained palette rendered in dense texture. Indeed, the darkness of the canvas calls to mind still lifes by Francisco de Zurbarán and Juan Sánchez Cotán, the Spanish Baroque painters. In the vibrant clarity of these compositions exist precedents for Tàpies’ own intense starkness, in which every shadow and gesture is poignant, unambiguous and gripping.

Painted in 1974, the year that the artist was awarded the British Arts Council Prize, Morró i blanc amb dos claus exemplifies Tàpies’ continued aim to reveal the sublime beauty of the every day. Beginning in the 1960s, the artist began incorporating commonplace materials into his canvases. Frequently, Tàpies used discarded objects that he discovered on the street, which he then integrated sparingly into his compositions. Describing the effect, art historian Sarah Whitfield wrote, ‘The isolation in which these objects are invariably shown gives them the dignity of a relic or a votary offering. Touch is important and things are chosen because they appeal to the hand as well as the eye’ (S. Whitfield, ‘Antoni Tàpies: The Last Oasis’, in Antoni Tàpies: Recent Paintings, exh. cat. Waddington Galleries, London 2001, p. 5). Tàpies believed that close attention to life’s details was necessary for making the world anew: ‘Look at the simplest object,’ he commanded. ‘Look, for example, at an old chair. It does not seem to be much. But think about the whole universe that it contains: the hands and the sweat of the person who carved the wood, which was once a robust tree, full of energy, in the middle of a thick forest high up in the mountains… All, absolutely all of that represents life and has importance’ (A. Tàpies quoted, ‘The Game of Looking’, 1967, reprinted in Antoni Tàpies: Selected Work 1973-1974, exh. cat., Martha Jackson Gallery, New York 1975, p. 5). In Morró i blanc amb dos claus, a tactile history is built into the brown. Enthralling and auratic, the work is a testament to Tàpies’ material mastery.

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