- Adrian Ghenie
- The Fake Rothko
- signed and dated 2010 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Entitled The Fake Rothko, the present work is a deeply personal reworking of the story of Saint Anthony of Egypt, the saint who the devil sought to tempt and seduce whilst in the desert, the archetypal biblical tale of will power put to the test. This theme has inspired a plethora of artists throughout art history from Michelangelo to the dazzlingly surreal musings of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, in The Fake Rothko, however, Ghenie confidently diverts from tradition. Speaking about the recent leitmotifs of seduction and the devil in his work, Ghenie remarked: “I imagine that the devil will tempt me as Mark Rothko – all this when you are so attracted to someone because of his work” (Adrian Ghenie quoted in: Mark Gisbourne, ‘Baroque Decisions: The Inflected World of Adrian Ghenie’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Galerie Judin, Adrian Ghenie, 2010, p. 39). Indeed, the viewer is immediately drawn to the incandescent Mark Rothko painting with its distinctive blurred blocks of luminescent red and purple hues at the centre of the work. Juxtaposed with the sublime, transcendent surface of the Rothko is the contorted, writhing face of a figure vomiting. Confirmed by Ghenie’s Self Portrait no. 4 of the same year, a painting that features an identical figure, the man in front of the Rothko is Ghenie. Ghenie’s identification with Saint Anthony, however, is not religious; it rather calls into question the notion of how he should appropriate and revivify the work of artists to whom he is attracted. Playfully multilayering cultural and historic references, the convulsing artist could also be a biblical pun that cites the Proverbs: “like a dog who returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly”. The Fake Rothko appears to glory in abject expulsion and is perhaps indicative of the future torment of an artist who is ‘fake’, who is tempted and seduced by art historical tradition, or in Ghenie’s case Rothko, and does not carve out his own trajectory. A field of tantalising yet intellectually considered clues; The Fake Rothko constantly intrigues the viewer with its open-ended set of internal and external meanings.