On 28 February, Phillips will kick off the 2018 auction season in New York with its New Now sale. Offering nearly 250 lots, this auction will bring together works by emerging contemporary artists and those with firmly established careers, and will be the first of Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art auctions to include Latin American works since the announcement of Phillips’ full incorporation of the two categories. George Condo’s Nude Homeless Drinker will lead the sale, featured alongside artworks by Damien Hirst, Ugo Rondinone, and Manolo Valdés.
Damien Hirst’s Arachidoyl Chloride, 2005, a striking example from the artist’s iconic Spot Paintings series, will also be offered in the auction on 28 February. First begun in 1986, the Pharmaceutical series has become a celebrated trademark of the artist’s oeuvre. Though the dimensions and scale of the paintings vary, the overwhelming majority are composed of uniformly round spots dispersed immaculately across a rigidly ordered grid. Hirst makes the connection between art and science in this series clear by sourcing the titles of his Spot Paintings from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalogue. As such, the spots in the present lot are likened to the individual components of chemical compounds, which can come together in infinite combinations. Arachidoyl Chloride is a unique piece within the Spot Paintings series, which can be hung in any orientation. While many of the other works in the series confront viewers with a multitude of dots, this work manifests a more minimalist aesthetic with four dots placed at the corners of a square canvas. It serves as a stellar example of Hirst’s mission to explore painting as a medium by distilling it to its very essence.
Samuel Mansour, Head of Phillips’ New Now Auctions, New York, said, “Phillips’ New Now sales have become a focal point of the auction season for collectors and this is one of our strongest to date. In keeping with the tradition of New Now, we will offer a selection for collectors of all levels and interests, from artworks by blue-chip names like Damien Hirst, Laura Owens, and George Condo to younger emerging artists, such as Alex Becerra and Shara Hughes. We are proud to have worked with some exceptional consignors this season, including Michael and Sirje Gold, as well as a private collector who has entrusted us with an exceptional group of Cuban lots.”
A striking group of three female portraits by Valencia-born artist Manolo Valdés will also be featured in the New Now auction. Two sculptures, Infanta Margarita and Lydia , along with one painting, Joelle sobre fondo verde oscuro, reflect the artist’s singular treatment of media and his renowned engagement with art historical masters. Throughout his career, Valdés has consistently expressed his interest in Spanish artistic heritage through the interpretation of historical artistic notions. Valdés has repeatedly turned to the work of Diego Velázquez, for example, which is evident in Infanta Margarita. The artist recontextualizes Velázquez’s famed representations of Margaret Theresa of Spain, translating details of the great painter’s works into his own contemporary vision. The three works offered in this sale also reflect the technical abstraction for which Valdés is known. Though recognizable as traditional sculpting materials, the wood and marble are transformed into contemporary figurative objects that confront viewers directly, commanding onlookers to participate in a fully immersive experience. Across all three works, Valdés expertly integrates distinctive parts to form a unique whole – each one a masterful example of the formal qualities for which the artist is known.
Leading the auction is George Condo’s Nude Homeless Drinker, 1999, which was included in the artist’s first major survey exhibition, George Condo: Mental States (2011-2012). At once visually arresting and amusingly alarming, this work is a striking example of Condo’s manifest interest in picturing psychological disturbance. In the mid1990s, Condo began to develop a new facial vocabulary in his portraits with bulbous cheeks, bulging eyes and disk-like ears, all discernible in the present work. These particular features convey a compelling psychological presence, often immediately recognizable as somehow manic or depressive. Nude Homeless Drinker is one of if not the first instances in Condo’s painting in which he explicitly depicts multiple states of physical and mental being. The five arms swinging in frenzied motion imbue the figure with an ambiguity that is completely unlike any of Condo’s contemporaneous, carefully posed portraits. A pivotal work that bridges his many thematic and technical achievements, Nude Homeless Drinker is a testament to the undying nature of the primacy of painting and the master of the medium, George Condo.
Also highlighting the auction is Ugo Rondinone’s No. 69 VIERUNDZWANZIGSTERNOVEMBERNEUNZEH N HUNDERTFÜNFUNDNEUNZIG, whose title lists, without pause and in German, the date of its execution. Executed in 1995, the work is emblematic of the artist’s engagement with suspended time and space. With a nod to Jan Brueghel the Elder’s feathery trees and rivers, Fragonard’s cloud-covered hills, and John Constable’s nineteenth-century ponds and gardens, Rondinone creates a monumental, monochrome landscape that unfolds lyrically in front of the viewer. The work specifically calls to mind Rembrandt’s celebrated black and white etchings and at over sixteen-feet wide, it is a powerful example in a striking scale of how Rondinone melds pictorial and linguistic poetry to heighten the experience of sensitive reflection. Phillips’ continued commitment to Rondinone’s work is further underscored by its sponsorship of good evening beautiful blue, a retrospective on view at The Bass in Miami through 19 February.