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Property of a New York Collector

Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995)

Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995)
signed, titled and dated 'LIAM GALLAGHER (GLASTONBURY 1995) Elizabeth Peyton 1995' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
22 1⁄8 x 18 1⁄8 in. (56.2 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1995.
Galleria il Capricorno, Venice
Private collection, Italy
Marc Jancou Fine Art, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2006

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

One of the most significant artists of her generation, Elizabeth Peyton creates communities across history and makes aesthetic connections with her friends, colleagues, and a lineage of artists in all media. An important early painting, Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) is an intimate work created from a photograph of the eponymous English singer and former front man of the band Oasis. Peyton has been called the Andy Warhol of Britpop for her impassioned and formally rigorous appropriated portraits of British alt-rock icons of the mid-1990s. To consider Peyton a documentarian would only be one part of the story. Her permutations of her source material evince something more subjective, recalling artists from Edgar Degas, who often worked from photographs, to François Boucher, Cecil Beaton, Pablo Picasso, and Billy Sullivan. Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) has all the tactility and familiarity of a family photograph, like the handheld daguerreotype mementos of the nineteenth-century, even as it reminds us that a portrait can only capture so much of a beloved person.

A fixture in the New York art world since her show in a room at New York’s storied Chelsea Hotel in 1993, Peyton’s mid-career retrospective opened in 2008 at the New Museum, New York, and travelled internationally. She has mounted celebrated solo exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London, the Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. A version of the present work in ink wash and pencil on paper is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Like Picasso’s defining 1905-6 portrait of Gertrude Stein, Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995), painted early in Peyton’s career, foretells the impact she would have on art history. Drawing from a subdued concert photograph, in which Gallagher is not performing but rather in a liminal space, Peyton enlivens and modifies the image through cropping and the application of an otherworldly color palette, almost like the photographer’s darkroom, that is unconcerned with veracity. Gallagher is drenched in glamourous reds and oranges, inevitably reminiscent of the genre-defining prom scene in Carrie (1976), but any associations with rage are mollified by the tender gesture of his left hand, caught mid-air like a conductor’s. Peyton has tightened the framing of the original photograph and emphasizes her affectionate and skillful brushstrokes that illustrate a longed-for closeness with a personal hero. Here, the source material becomes important, since the photograph inherently captures unintended motion and detail because of its instantaneity. In Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995), Peyton takes that instantaneity and adds echoing layers to its stasis, creating instead a gestural, dynamic image that is personal, contingent, surreal, and medium-specific. There is no irony or hierarchy of genres, and Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) is the sum of its multimedia parts brought together by paint.

Just as Peyton treats her source photographs with seriousness, she argues that there is no distinction between her friends and idols, love and fandom, “There is no separation for me between people I know through their music or photos and someone I know personally. The way I perceive them is very similar, in that there’s no difference between certain qualities that I find inspiring in them” (E. Peyton, quoted in E. Peyton, Elizabeth Peyton, New York, 2005, p. 16). It follows that, in a conceptualist gesture reminiscent of the Pictures Generation, she calls her paintings “pictures of people” and not squarely portraits (C. Tomkins, “The Artist of the Portrait, The New Yorker, September 29, 2008). Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) aspires to represent both a historical figure and, say, Peyton’s unknown musician friend playing a concert at a small venue. Seeing both as monumental and important is the height of art’s democratic power.

As art historian David Joselit points out, Peyton’s paintings “enact a fan’s tribute of love through their lush revisionings of pop magazine sources. She is the obvious heir to Hockney…but there are other ways in which the intimacy of surface and figure may be conceived” (D. Joselit, “Apocalypse Not,” Artforum, May 2004). Peyton has showed us this “other way” with Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995), at once a rendering of one person and the articulation of an archetype. Above all, Peyton suggests in her work that everyone’s image deserves to gain the status of a history painting, something revered, cherished, and preserved for history. Consistent with the function of history painting, Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) is poignant. It is a marker of lost time, never to be experienced again but optimistically present in the form of a relic or trace. Like the preserved ephemera of saints, Liam Gallagher (Glastonbury 1995) lives on in the form of myth. Yet Peyton makes clear that the stuff of myth is not just a wild concert, but also the seconds in between, when we and the performer alike can finally pause.

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