Barry X Ball (B. 1955)
Property from an Important Private American Collection
Barry X Ball (B. 1955)

Sleeping Hermaphrodite

Details
Barry X Ball (B. 1955)
Sleeping Hermaphrodite
sculpture: Belgian Black Marble
base: Carrara Marble, stainless steel, Delrin
overall: 68 ½ x 35 7/8 x 31 5/8 in. (174 x 91.1 x 80.3 cm.)
Executed in 2008-2010.
Provenance
Salon 94, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
N. Hartvig, "FIAC Rising," Art + Auction, October 2010, p. 40.
N. Duault, "FIAC 2010-Quand l'art fait sa foire," France-Soir, 10 October 2010.
N. Hartvig, "A Roundup of Sales from FIAC's High-Octane Opener," Artinfo, 21 October 2010 (illustrated in color).
B. Rochebouët, "Noir, c'est noir à la La Cour Carrée," Le Figaro, 21 October 2010, pp. 32-33 (illustrated in color).
G. Adam, "Cour de Force," Financial Times, 22 October 2010, p. 14 (illustrated).
B. Nickas, et. al., Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks, London, 2011, pp. 434-435 (illustrated in color).
M. Seliger and J. Shields, "Ca' Rezzonico, Barry X Ball," L'Uomo Vogue, May/June 2011, pp. 241 and 252-253 (illustrated in color).
J. E. Adlmann, "The Theatrum Mundi of Barry X Ball," Sculpture, November 2011, 30, no. 9, pp. 34-35 (illustrated in color).
A. Hesson, "Perfect Forms: Barry X Ball and the Art of Improvement," Neue Luxury, Issue 3, 2015, pp. 1-3 and cover (illustrated).
J. Openshaw, Postdigital Artisans: Craftsmanship With a New Aesthetic in Fashion, Art, Design and Architecture, Amsterdam, 2015, pp. 88-89 (illustrated in color).
M. Momen, "Barry X Ball: Parts 1 and 2," StyleZeitgeist Magazine, 15-16 June 2015 (illustrated in color).
G. Bortoluzzi, "Perfezione, Tecnologia, Unicità," L'Officiel Hommes Italia, issue 14, Winter/Spring 2016, p. 89 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Paris, Cour Carrée du Louvre, FIAC, Salon 94, Barry X Ball, October 2010.
Venice, Ca' Rezzonico, Barry X Ball: Portraits and Masterpieces, June-November 2011, pp. 95 and 136 (illustrated in color).
Miami Beach, Bass Museum of Art, The Endless Renaissance – Six Solo Artist Projects: Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Barry X Ball, Walead Beshty, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Ged Quinn and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, December 2012-March 2013.

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

Barry X Ball’s Sleeping Hermaphrodite (2008-2010) is a masterfully fashioned work that exists in dialogue with both antiquity and the post-digital era. The slumbering figure lying prostrate upon a padded bed, all rendered from one prime block of Belgian black marble, their highly polished figure enveloped in drapes of fabric, clearly evokes the spirit of Ancient Greece and Rome. Yet the manner of its making is decidedly 21st century as Ball uses the digital process to scan his subjects before they are carved into marble and hand-detailed and polished to a seductive finish. Exhibited to critical acclaim at the Ca’ Rezzonico during the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, this work is an undeniable object of beauty as well as being a supreme example of craftsmanship in an era where obsessive attention to detail has all but vanished from art-making practice. Through his exacting process and fine eye, Barry X Ball is able to breathe new life into some of the finest works of art ever created, serving as a hopeful paean for our postmodern century.

In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was the son of Aphrodite and Hermes. According to Ovid, born a remarkably handsome boy with whom the water nymph Salmacis fell in love and she prayed to be united with him forever. Based on a classical sculpture unearthed in ancient Rome, Ball’s mediation with the work is just the latest in a series of interventions in the object’s history. The artist draws his subject matter for Sleeping Hermaphrodite from the Borghese Hermaphrodite now housed at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Based on a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture circa the second century BC, the Borghese Hermaphrodite was discovered in 1608 during construction in Italy by Cardinal Scipione Borghese who was so enamored with its classical beauty that he commissioned the master sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini to sculpt a mattress on which the Hermaphrodite could rest. Bernini’s addition was transformative. Not only was the Roman figure made out of a pure white marble and exceedingly seductive, but now it rests on a carved bed so lifelike that its beauty rivals that of the ancient body. Every seam and button in the mattress is modeled in exquisite detail, revealing the genius and virtuosity of Bernini’s mastery of stone. It is fitting, then, that the Borghese Hermaphrodite now rests at the Louvre Museum, home to one of the greatest treasures of antiquity, and has been described as “unquestionably one of the world’s greatest masterpieces” (B. Nickas, “Barry X Ball: Sleeping Hermaphrodite,” in B. Nickas et. Al., Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Works, London, 2011, p. 434).

It is from this auspicious starting point that Ball approaches his sculpture, Sleeping Hermaphrodite. Over a period of several years, Ball painstakingly recreated the sculpture using all of the techniques available to 21st century sculptors, in an effort to not only remake the original, but also improve it. No detail was left untouched, as Ball was given unprecedented access to the masterwork by the custodians at the Louvre. There, he meticulously captured the original sculpture using a hi-res digital 3D scanner, converting the stone into raw computerized data. Then the process of transformation began, as Ball and his assistants reviewed every inch of the digital sculpture via computer, refining and perfecting the original until it was ready to take physical form. After selecting the finest Belgian black marble (a stark contrast from the pure white of the original subject), Ball then used a highly-advanced, computer-guided carving machine to realize his sculpture into physical reality. Whereas many artisans would be finished with this step, Ball then harnessed the labor of his assistants to pore over the milled stone with files and dental tools, subtly shaping the rock over a series of months into a gleaming, immaculate surface. By choosing to enhance a certain part of the figure’s anatomy, the artist endows the viewer with a voyeuristic attribute and although the prostrate figure is sleeping and we, the viewer, go unobserved, we are nevertheless implicated in an entirely new kind of relationship by intruding on the figure’s peaceful slumber.

Sleeping Hermaphrodite marks the pinnacle of Barry X Ball’s career to date. Although his practice has its roots in historical tradition, his evocative sculptural forms are owned by some of the most respected and influential contemporary collectors today and, in 2019, the artist will be the subject of a major upcoming solo exhibition organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Here, in the pristine form of Sleeping Hermaphrodite, Ball has breathed new life into antiquity in this almost performative act of recreation. As Ball argues that this act of updating and recreating brings life into an object which deserves our attention afresh. “I think that the viewer … will never see the thousands of individual differences, the little details that we pay attention to. I just believe that cumulatively it has a buzz. That there is a vibration to an object that is made like that. That it just feels different” (B. X Ball interviewed by M. Momen for StyleZeitgeist Magazine, June 2015, via http://www.sz-mag.com/news/2015/06/barry-x-ball-part-1/).

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