Lot 13
  • 13

Rudolf Stingel

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
2,650,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 2010 twice on the reverse
  • oil and enamel on canvas


Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private Collection, United States
Private Collection, Palm Beach
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Deftly balancing the complex relationship between the intricate craftsmanship of the Art Nouveau and the readymade-esque repeatability of a stencil, Rudolf Stingel’s fascinating Untitled asserts itself as one of the most important examples of the artist’s eagerly sought-after series of carpet works. Executed in 2010, this impressive painting does not shy away from paradox, but in fact embraces all of its contrasting elements. This unabashed acceptance of oxymoron does not, as one may think, enervate the work, but in fact enhances it, making the painting that much more significant within the scope of Stingel’s career and, ultimately, art history. Upon an astute examination of the work, one cannot help but see all the blatant contradictions in which the painting revels. It is both precise in its execution, yet inexact in its rendering. It represents something banal, the repetition of a pattern found on a prosaic piece of carpet, but does so in brilliant silver. It celebrates both superfluous ornamentation and a strict sense of geometrically guided repletion built through industrialized processes. Seemingly contradicting dualities are not unique to this particularly work nor indeed this particularly series, as they have been a fundamental component throughout the entirety of Stingel’s artistic career.

Penetrating the heart of the New York art scene in 1987, Stingel entered a world dominated by a dichotomy of twin aesthetic movements: neo-expressionism, which placed great value on the presence of the artist’s hand in the creation of the work, and minimalism, which sought to remove any evidence of the artist in the creation process. While he eschewed each school individually, the young artist incorporated elements of both into his own creations. He pioneered a process focused approach to painting through the creation of his lustered silver monochromes. However, it was in 1989 when he really synthesized the two movements with his influential Instructions: a limited edition art book that outlined the complex process by which his iconic enamel works could be replicated. By codifying his technique with a democratic release into the public sphere, Stingel demystified studio process of mechanized labor akin to Warhol’s factory. It was both minimalist in that it removed the artist entirely from the work, yet expressionist as it emphasized the importance of Stingel to the creation of the paintings as it quickly became clear that no one could replicate these works even with the detailed instructions the artist provided.  

Created by applying paint through a fine and detailed stencil, Untitled extends Stingel’s pioneering industrialized process by providing an imprint or trace of a predetermined referent, namely the decorative art found in his native Tyrol and Vienna. Stingel conceptually outsources authorship to a visual mode that evokes the opulence of Rococo, Baroque, and Belle Époque designs, which were once harnessed to create luxurious damask wallpapers, carpets, and iron window guards with cut velvet floral forms. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and the development of sophisticated production technologies, what was once the product of multiple skilled artisans working arduously for months became a day’s work for a single machine.  The increased ubiquity of such designs led to a gradual degradation of their grandiosity, eventually transitioning to kitsch associations in the Twentieth Century. The relentless replication of forms exploits a sense of artifice to an enigmatic degree. Converse to modernist tendencies for simplicity and the cold minimalism of industrial aesthetics, Stingel engages with the history of decorative opulence, presenting stylized carpets as a freestanding abstract painting.

Carpet, as banal as it may seem, is a fundamental element of both architecture and design. Often a room’s carpet is the only part of a physical space with which common visitors tangibly interact. When one enters a space, they need not touch the walls or be able to reach the ceiling, but if they are going to walk to the other side, they will walk on the carpet if there is any. Carpet’s commonplace nature makes it an afterthought to most people. However, by painting it and placing it on the wall, Stingel recontextualizes the physical domain that a carpet usually inhabits and forces us to question its significance in both literal and metaphorical space. This is not the only work in which Stingel focuses on the subject of carpet. In 2013, he famously covered the entire interior of the Palazzo Grassi in Venice with carpet, causing viewers to question their own relationship with the elements that make up a given place. The seminal 2013 Venice exhibition, and this present work, continue Stingel’s examination into the pictorialization of architectural features and the melding of aesthetic with experienced space.