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The Last Day

The Last Day
signed, titled and dated 'C. Tabouret 2016 THE LAST DAY' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
90 3/8 x 129 7/8in. (230 x 330cm.)
Painted in 2016
Night Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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. Cancellation under the EU Consumer Rights Directive may apply to this lot. Please see here for further information. 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.

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Lot Essay

A monumental canvas over three metres across, The Last Day (2016) is a captivating example of Claire Tabouret’s distinctive, emotionally-charged figurative practice. A group of fifteen children—in standing and seated rows, as if posing for a school photograph—are dressed in a variety of costumes. There are clowns, cowboys, Native Americans, and girls in old-fashioned bonnets. Three of them hold mysterious, slender poles in their hands. Their gazes are direct, with an enigmatic air of expectation. Tabouret’s deft, liquid brushstrokes create a sense of dreamlike mirage: a layer of fluorescent green underpainting flashes through in places, dissolving outlines and lending the figures an otherworldly neon glow. For Tabouret, paint’s fluidity embodies the unfixed nature of selfhood, and of history itself. ‘A ray of light, music, a painting; sometimes these can make time disappear’, she says. ‘It’s a strong and beautiful experience. I think that’s what art should be about: the end of time’ (C. Tabouret, quoted in F. Fryns, ‘Portrait of an Artist: Claire Tabouret’, Vanity Fair, November 2017, p. 93).

Born in France and based in Los Angeles, Tabouret has risen to acclaim over the past decade for her ethereal, incandescent and often vast paintings, which are today held in permanent collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. They are typically derived from found photographs, and shimmer with the uncanny light of distant memories. Her group compositions explore themes of shifting character, performance, and social and familial relationships—ideas particularly visible in The Last Day’s children, each of whose outfits stand out from the crowd, but whose individual expressions are tantalisingly inscrutable.

While the work has a nostalgic or even ghostly aura—there are echoes of the 19th-century pursuit of ‘spirit photography’, which captured transparent figures through lengthy exposures—Tabouret’s technique ultimately melts away any historical specificity, emphasising the painted surface as mutable and timeless. She credits an early experience of Monet’s Water Lilies, which she saw at the age of four, as informing her immersive, aqueous understanding of paint: the changing expressions of a person’s face are no less evanescent than the play of light across water. Tabouret’s pigment—flowing, unstable, luminous—conveys visual and emotional flux as one. The Last Day is awash with feeling, and pictures identity as a mercurial, imaginative state of constant becoming.

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