The Contemporary Scene

Francis Outred on Venice, London and the Artists of Our Time

PETER DOIG (B. 1959)
Estimate: £4,000,000 – 6,000,000

In the lead-up to Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Auctions in London on 25 and 26 June, Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Europe, looks at the contexts at play.

As a devout student of Jorge Luis Borges in my early twenties, the title of this year’s Venice Biennale main exhibition The Encyclopaedic Palace intrigues me. Massimiliano Gioni’s mission to unify artworks with historical artefacts and found objects under this banner demonstrates an ambitious and apparently unfulfillable attempt to make sense of the constant flood of information which dominates our lives. On the heels of Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s outstanding Documenta exhibition last year, it seems we are moving into a new era of curation in which the big themes of our time are tackled through a discussion between artists, history and archives of objects and documents. Following an obsession with the new over the last couple of decades, it is refreshing to see curators re-grasping the old as the new ‘new’. I, too, am increasingly drawn to the re-analysis of historical artists in the context of today, something brought into focus by the Domenico Gnoli presentation in the Central Pavilion, in my view a much undervalued artist who seems more relevant today than ever before.

On 25 and 26 June, Christie’s will host the season’s headline auctions of Post-War and Contemporary Art, featuring many artists who have participated at Venice, including Peter Doig, Roy Lichtenstein, Nicolas de Staël and Eduardo Chillida, who was awarded the sculpture price in 1958. Doig’s Jetty is a pivotal work from the year he was nominated for the Turner Prize. A painter who has transformed and reinvigorated the medium in a career that has spanned its decline in contemporary art, Doig’s recent works will be explored in a major exhibition, Peter Doig | No Foreign Lands, at the Scottish National Gallery from 3 August to 3 November 2013. Having witnessed the extraordinary global interest in the sales, both from a viewing and a buying perspective, it is clear that artists are now operating in a world where global access dominates, international perspectives collide and art histories from across the globe generate intense excitement. The fact that many of the art world cognoscenti have moved from New York to Hong Kong and will fly from Hong Kong to Venice before moving to Basel and then London, also illustrates the way that we are seeing the world today.

Buscando La Luz IV (Looking for the Light IV)
Estimate on request

A few years ago I helped select Varda Caivano’s work for a special exhibition of new painting at the Whitechapel Gallery and I am delighted to see her work in Venice; her painted palimpsests describe an inner world where natural forms overlap with imaginary presences. Talking of new painting, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a British artist of Ghanaian descent, is another must-see following her fantastic show at Corvi-Mora in London. My wife and I recently acquired a work by Massimo Bartolini, whose show at Fruitmarket Gallery last year was a personal highlight, and have looked forward to seeing him in Venice ever since. Cindy Sherman’s curatorial project; Wade Guyton – whose work goes from strength to strength – and Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi, which looks like an extraordinary mise-en-scène, are all essential viewing.

In our June auctions, we will be presenting our own re-assessment of a historically resonant figure – Eduardo Chillida – through an exhibition which forms the core of our June auctions, Homage to Chillida, a tribute of 46 sculptures, paintings and drawings by major artists of our time such as Twombly, Rauschenberg, Kelly and Zao Wou-ki. Originally exhibited at the Bilbao Guggenheim in 2006, the centrepiece will be Chillida’s own Buscando La Luz IV, an extraordinary towering monolith, over eight metres in height, which attempts to unify the sculpted form with nature. Drawing a shaft of light from the skies through its funnelled structure, this work speaks as much about the need to purify the constant noise around us as it does of the need to find shelter from the world’s freneticism – to think and imagine.

The 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice
Until 24 November 2013

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