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Restaurant chinois avec grenouilles (Chinese Restaurant with Frogs)

Restaurant chinois avec grenouilles (Chinese Restaurant with Frogs)
signed, titled and dated ‘BARceló PARis XI, 85 Restaurant chinois avec GRENOUILLES’ (on the reverse)
oil, rice, cigarette butts, burlap and straw on canvas
76 ¾ x 118 1/8in. (195 x 300cm.)
Executed in 1985
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York.
Asher Edelman Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 27 June 2001, lot 47.
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale).
Thence by descent to the present owners.
F. Debolini & H. Tighe (eds.), Miquel Barceló: Il Cristo della Vucciria, Milan 1998 (work in progress in the artist's studio illustrated, p. 127).
P. Subirós (ed.), Miquel Barceló 1987-1997, exh. cat., Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1998 (work in progress in the artist's studio illustrated, p. 248).
Miquel Barceló: Mapamundi, exh. cat., Paris, Fondation Maeght, 2002 (work in progress in the artist's studio illustrated, p. 162).
P. Mauriès, BARCELÓ, London 2003 (illustrated in colour, pp. 18-19, work in progress in the artist's studio illustrated, pp.16-17).
Miquel Barceló, exh. cat., Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna della Città di Lugano, 2006-2007 (work in progress in the artist's studio illustrated, p. 76).
New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Miquel Barceló, 1986.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Miquel Barceló: 1984-1994, 1994, p. 85 (illustrated in colour, p. 25).
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

Included in Miquel Barceló’s 1994 retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, Restaurant chinois avec grenouilles (Chinese Restaurant with Frogs) is a monumental feast for the senses. Spanning three metres wide, it is an expressionistic and experimental reboot of the traditional Spanish bodegón: a still-life composition featuring foodstuffs. Where pictures of that genre in the Prado and the Louvre often employ Old Masterly trompe-loeil, Barceló has layered his work with elements as varied as rice, oil paint and cigarette ends, blurring the boundary between real world and representation—and between cookery and painting. Chopsticks, apple-halves and a platter of frogs’ legs are scattered across a vast, roiling yellow table, framed within graphic red edges; a dog-like creature peeks from behind one curlicued leg, sniffing at the frogs’ discarded heads below. A vase holds a dark branch, blooming with a single flower. Lacquered screens gouged and patterned with further branches decorate the walls, creating paintings within the painting. It is a visceral, radical and stickily tangible vision, made all the more immersive by its vast scale.

1985 was a watershed year for Barceló. Another massive bodegón, La gran cena Española (1985), became the first of his works to enter a public collection—it is now in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. That same year, he was approached by the veteran art dealer Leo Castelli, who wished to represent him in the United States; he was also given a prestigious show of some of his recent paintings, which travelled from the CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux to the Palacio de Velázquez, Madrid and The Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston.

During the mid-1980s, Barceló was largely based in Paris. For six months in 1984, he had worked in a large 19th-century church on the rue d’Ulm, where his pictures became ever more colossal; the expansion continued in his studio on the Avenue de Breteuil, where he focused on the bodegón and the library as parallel themes. Barceló saw literature and the culinary world as equally worthy of attention: a close friend to many poets, and deeply influenced by such works as Dante’s Divine Comedy, he has also compared himself to a ‘baker’, mixing, transforming and plunging into the ingredients of his art. The still-life, represented by pictures of soup, vegetables, sauce-spattered kitchens and Chinese restaurants, allowed him to reimagine the substance of painting as the stuff of life itself. Making witty, self-referential and wildly inventive use of organic material, works like Restaurant chinois avec grenouilles present food for the mind and body alike.

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