NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
3 More
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)

Portrait

Details
NICOLAS PARTY (B. 1980)
Portrait
soft pastel on canvas
39 1⁄4 x 35 1⁄2 in. (100 x 90 cm.)
Executed in 2014.
Provenance
Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zürich
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2014
Literature
N. Party, Nicolas Party: Pastel, New York, 2017, n.p. (illustrated).
Exhibited
Zürich, Galerie Gregor Staiger, Pastel, 2014, p. 12 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Specialist, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Although Nicolas Party’s Portrait (2014) remains grounded in the visceral relatability of the human visage, the canvas emanates a fantastical, mysterious energy. An air of the delightfully bizarre permeates the work’s aura, perhaps originating in the shock of tangerine hair or in the white bulge of the figure’s searching gaze. A cursory glance yields an almost absurd visual inventory: an orange cloud of hair, a bulbous right ear, arching brown eyebrows, two swaths of cranberry eyeshadow, piercing cerulean eyes, an elongated nose, and pursed crimson lips. Individually, these elements may appear cartoonish, each one veering slightly into the optically hyperbolic. However, when Party’s unique eye for color is combined with his masterful pastel technique, the flame-haired subject’s striking features are elevated to the plane of sublime and unusual elegance.
Portrait exemplifies the way Party straddles the familiar and the otherworldly, a difficult balance that he realizes through creative uses of color. The artist’s embrace of warm, vivacious hues in the figure’s hair, eyelids, and mouth comes dangerously close to dominating the work, only to be expertly tempered by a solid backdrop of the lightest periwinkle and a simple baby-blue shirt. These cooler colored elements of the piece maintain the equilibrium of the work’s palette, while their porcelain-like flatness allows them to sink into the background and funnel the viewer’s attention to the figure. This daring blend of shades from opposite ends of the color spectrum imbues the work with a unique dynamism and intrigue.
Party’s technical skill in pastels shines in the range of textures he is able to manifest in the figure’s face. He elicits a fleshy softness from the cheek’s gentle curve, then teases out a moist shine from the rounded swell of the eyes. The mounded chin presents a study in gentle shadow and light, while the carved lines of the nose bridge and cupid’s bow achieve a stark sculptural stiffness. His choice of pastel as medium is notable, as it provides a visual clue to the work’s inspiration: Tête de femme (Head of a Woman) by Pablo Picasso (1921). This pastel on paper by Picasso also features a figure facing towards the viewer’s right, staring with wide eyes into a distant horizon. Both works emphasize an array of exaggerated facial features, with distinct similarities in the high arch of the eyebrows, thin nose bridge, protruding chin, and prominent lips. Party is inspired by the best elements from Picasso’s work – its sculptural quality, the blank, undiscerning gaze, and understated grace– yet he adds his own flair and modern update. While Picasso’s figure is distinctly female, Party’s is androgynous, yielding no definitive hints at gender. Furthermore, Party’s raucous use of color allows for a wide range of interpretations of mood and meaning. With its balanced proportions, serene, sculptural elegance, and fantastical colors, Portrait is a celebration of both classical beauty and whimsical delight.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale

View All
View All