Richard Serra (b. 1939)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Schulhof Collection
Richard Serra (b. 1939)

Schulhof's Curve

Richard Serra (b. 1939)
Schulhof's Curve
COR-TEN steel
44 x 444 x 89 in. (111.8 x 1127.8 x 226.1 cm.)
Executed in 1984.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

This work is accompanied by a certificate with siting parameters specified by the artist.

"I think that sculpture, if it has any potential at all, has the potential to create its own place and space, and to work in contradiction to the spaces and places where it is created in this sense. I am interested in work where the artist is a maker of 'anti-environment' which takes its own place or makes its own situation, or divides or declares its own area" -Richard Serra, 1996

With its sweep of rigorous COR-TEN steel that dramatically bisects the environment in which it stands, Richard Serra's Schulhof's Curve is a modestly scaled version of his imposing free-standing structures that have come to symbolize the artist's unique brand of sculpture. Bold, decisive and unmistakably Serra, Schulhof's Curve beautifully encapsulates the artist's belief that sculpture should work in contradiction to the spaces and places where it is created. Wherever it is situated, the sculpture's dramatic curve creates both a physical and aesthetic hurdle that seeks to integrate the viewer directly into the sculpture's environment and disrupt the usual conventions associated with viewing sculpture.

Schulhof's Curve was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Schulhof directly from the artist, and Serra visited the Schulhof's house in Kings Point, New York to select the appropriate site for the piece. He was attracted to a quiet part of the garden and produced a work which interacted flawlessly with its environment. "He chose a secluded area to the left of the house, which is almost like a secret garden," Mrs. Schulhof recalled, "His work is a real experience and where he placed it, in the garden, you can really engage with the sculpture and the landscape, but also with the grace of his work" (H. Schulhof, interviewed by L. Philips, "Conversation with Hannelore Schulhof," The Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof Collection, New York, 2011, p. 42).
Schulhof's Curve evokes the same form as some of Serra's most iconic works. From Tilted Arc (executed in New York just three years earlier in 1981) to Clara-Clara (1983) in Paris, Serra's fondness for this gracefully arcing form would be demonstrated in several of his most important public commissions. However, whereas these works were executed on a monumental scale, Schulhof's Curve's more intimate proportions allow the work to be experienced on a much more personal scale. Whereas the size of his larger-scale works often acted as a physical barrier, the dimensions of Schulhof's Curve allow it to be experienced in a more open way. The waist-high structure acts as a partial impediment to the natural inquisitiveness of all humans to experience their environment (the expanse and solidity of the COR-TEN steel barrier prevents us from doing so), thus setting up an intriguing duality that is absent from his larger-scale works. This dichotomy--providing a physical barrier, yet one we can see beyond-- invokes a physical reaction in the viewer as well as a visual one, and one which lies at the very heart of Serra's highly expressive sculptural practice.

Emerging directly from the earth, the combination of Schulhof's Curve's strict formality and the spontaneity of the natural surrounds speak to the very debate that Serra thought was at the heart of sculpture. "I think that sculpture if it has any potential at all," he once said "has the potential to create its own place and space, and to work in contradiction to the spaces and places where it is created in this sense" (R. Serra & C. Weyergraf-Serra, Richard Serra: Interviews, Etc.., Yonkers, 1980, p. 128). This contradiction disrupts our perceptions of the medium and forces us to reassess perceived norms, "I am interested in the experience of sculpture in the place where it resides" he concluded. (R. Serra quoted in D. Crimp, "Serra's Public Sculpture: Refining Site Specificity," in R. Krauss, Richard Serra/Sculpture, New York, 1986, p. 50).

Fabricated in Serra's favored medium of COR-TEN steel, Schulhof's Curve captures the paradoxes that are inherent in the artist's work. For Serra, steel has chameleon-like properties in that it suggests graceful elegance, without signifying monstrous monumentality. "Steel is a special material whose production demands great craftsmanship, professional and technical know-how." Serra enthused, "The material has virtually unlimited possibilities for the differentiated, even the subtle treatment of both the smallest and largest objects, both the simplest and most artistically expressive forms" (R. Serra quoted in D. Crimp, "Serra's Public Sculpture: Refining Site Specificity," in R. Krauss, op. cit., 1986, p. 50).

The curve has become one of Serra's most important motifs and in its graceful form he found a way of powerfully and succinctly expressing the ideas that he wanted to impart to the world. His work was at the heart of most of the new developments in American art in the 1970s. Undeniably minimal in his aesthetic choices (factory-produced materials, elementary geometric structures) he nevertheless, as Rosalind Krauss states, shattered the impenetrable cube of Judd and Tony Smith and placed himself at the forefront of other contemporary trends. As the critic Otto Hahn wrote, Richard Serra belonged to two artistic camps, both Abstract Expressionists and Minimal Art, and in doing so stood at the very crossroads where several current concerns come together. With works such as Schulhof's Curve he invites the viewer to enter this world-walking alongside and around the work, compelling them to look and change the perception of both the work and its surroundings.

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