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.
A PHOTOGRAPHIC REVOLUTION
'From the late 1970s onward, serious art photography began to be made at large scale and for the wall... This immediately compelled photographers to grapple with issues centring on the relationship between the photograph and the viewer standing before it that until then had been the province only of painting... This means that the photographic ghetto no longer exists - instead photography is at the cutting edge of contemporary art as never before' (M. Fried, Why Photography matters as art as never before, New Haven 2008, inside cover).
In this auction exhibition we are delighted to present arguably the most comprehensive and outstanding survey of some of the greatest artistic photographers of our time yet seen in an Evening auction of contemporary art. The eight works assembled from different collections chart the progress of the medium in the late Twentieth Century, from the pioneer Conceptual artists of the 1970s Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall and Gilbert & George to the groundbreaking German photographers of the 1990s, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Demand, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth. Michael Fried's outstanding book Why Photography matters as art as never before, published in 2008, made the case extremely intelligently and convincingly, and these artists were at the core of his argument. Prior to the 1970s, photography was at best considered a minor art form and at worst the preserve of the realms of fashion, documentary and commercial purposes. However, each of the above artists has in their own distinct way played a significant part in bringing photography right to the heart of the artistic mainstream alongside painting and sculpture.
In the last twenty years, major technological breakthroughs have allowed artists to treat the medium with a newly invigorated and expansive creativity. Where once, they could only create grainy images on a small scale in black and white, now very large scale full colour photographs can be produced with extraordinary pin sharp detail and photography can now compete directly with painting in its pictorial ambition. Where Gilbert & George developed their now iconic aesthetic of individually framed and coloured silver gelatin prints in the early 1970s in order to get the scale they needed to augment their artistic vision, as is visible in FROZEN YOUTH, the German photographers of the last two decades have pushed the technologies to new levels of production and scale in order to see through their ambitions.
The beginnings in the 1970s saw Gilbert & George and Cindy Sherman using the camera to document selfhood in the most direct manner possible. Where Gilbert & George have gone on to create one of the ultimate artistic projects of self-portraiture over a forty year period, which is unprecedented in its scale or adventure in the history of art, Sherman has systematically denied her own identity in her photographs over the same period. Gilbert & Georges FROZEN YOUTH sees the artists looking back at middle age and idolising the concept of eternal youth in their series 'Modern Faith'. Almost always the subject of her photographs, Sherman has made her career cultivating an extraordinary amount of personalities which critique the projection of femininity in our contemporary world. From B-movie heroines to clowns, Sherman is examining the truth which is taken for granted in photography and the way that we project our 'selves' as brands in the contemporary world.
During the 1970s, Susan Sontag revealed many of the problematic issues associated with photography as a medium, and especially its trustworthiness, in her seminal collection of essays, On Photography. 'Photographs furnish evidence', she explained. 'Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when were shown a photograph of it... A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what's in the picture' (S. Sontag, On Photography, London, 2002, p. 5). Thomas Demand takes Sontag and Sherman's ideas one stage further by entirely manufacturing his scenarios in paper, meticulously recreating film set-like models. Having painstakingly constructed an immaculate facade, he photographs it and then destroys it. His work depends on a complete belief in photography and in the scene, followed by the gradual realisation of the artifice he has created. In a similar way, Thomas Ruff's photographs of photographs constantly deny their sources, whether it be the internet or other digital media. As such, the implied veracity of photography, that burden of proof, has been mined, and indeed undermined. In short, these artists have shown that the camera does in fact lie.
In the late 1970s, Jeff Wall began to adapt his intense intellectual understanding of the history of picture-making and composition to his chosen medium, photographic lightboxes, which of course have direct associations to media advertising. By adapting his high artistic intentions to these beacons of light, he was not just adding a sculptural dimension to photography but also creating a new, almost religious experience. His intensively researched and scrutinised compositions have the look and feel of 'being of the moment', however every single aspect has been studied to perfection. Adapting compositions from throughout art history, Wall's grand tableaux presents modern day history painting - a constructed truth. Here, a seemingly harmless corner of his studio is titled Diagonal Composition to call to mind the Suprematists', Constructivists' and De Stijl artists' search for sublime visual rhythm. Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth have continued this tradition following in the footsteps of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher, who were arguably the first artists to take photography as their sole chosen specific medium. Gursky and Struth tour the world scanning the grand stages of human activity and finding uniformity across the globe. New York, Stock Exchange is one of the first of Gursky's now much celebrated series of Stock Exchange views from Hong Kong to Kuwait, studying these hubs of global finance which direct our daily lives: these relatively small rooms, crowded with people, can dictate the state of the world, as became all too apparent in October 2008. Thomas Struth's El Capitan analyses a world where everyone has a hand-held camera and can photograph in an instant. The snapshot is ever present in our daily lives and the awesome natural spectacles such as El Capitan which used to be the preserve of the great intrepid photographers of earlier eras like Ansel Adams, who had the time, skills and resources to buy and use a camera, are now available to all. Now, the spectators are as much a part of the spectacle as the spectated. Where painting and drawing used to be the best way to record and share what we saw, photography is now the chosen medium for absolute visual truth - or not, as the case may be.
PROPERTY FROM THE LEHMAN BROTHERS COLLECTION