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11

THE TRIUMPH OF PAINTING: THE STEVEN & ANN AMES COLLECTION

Georg Baselitz
EIN STÜCK MALEREI
Estimate
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,452,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
11

THE TRIUMPH OF PAINTING: THE STEVEN & ANN AMES COLLECTION

Georg Baselitz
EIN STÜCK MALEREI
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
800,0001,200,000
LOT SOLD. 1,452,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Georg Baselitz
B. 1938
EIN STÜCK MALEREI
signed and dated 66 on the reverse; signed with initials, titled and dated 1966 on the stretcher
oil on canvas
64 by 51 3/8 in. 162.5 by 130.5 cm.
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Provenance

Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
Contemporary Art and Antiques, London
Michael Werner Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1992

Exhibited

Paris, Artcurial, Centre d'Art Plastique Contemporain, Berlin Paris-Bar, October - November 1991, p. 39, illustrated in color
New York and Cologne, Michael Werner Gallery, Georg Baselitz: Fracture Paintings, March - October 1997, no. 1, illustrated in color (New York only)
New York, Zwirner & Wirth Gallery, Georg Baselitz: Paintings and Drawings from the 1960s, September - November 2002

Literature

Exh. Cat., Bordeaux, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, Baselitz Sculptures, 1983, p. 13, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in the pivotal year of 1966, Georg Baselitz’s Ein Stück Malerei displays the inimitable painterly abandon and poignant symbolism that characterizes the artist’s significant early series of Frakturbilder (Fracture paintings).  Signaling a point of transition in concept, subject and style, Baselitz masterfully crafts an arcane mythology and creates a brazenly irreverent pictorial schema that tears apart the historical conventions of painting. Baselitz’s ruthless insistence on difference and his unique ability to carve an idiosyncratic space for himself within the Neo-Expressionist idiom enabled him to navigate a painterly landscape in which it would seem all possibility for innovation had been depleted. Attested to by his representation across the most significant international public collections, it is in this vein that Baselitz remains one of the most influential painters of his generation.

Moving from East Germany to West Berlin in 1958, Baselitz reacted against the constraints of the two contrasting artistic and political landscapes that he had traversed. Shifting from the dogma of Socialist Realism to the aesthetic hegemony of fashionable Tachism and Abstract Expressionism that dominated Western Europe at the time, Baselitz founded an entirely new visual mode of expression in order to liberate German painting from what he saw as the burden of its recent past: “When I make my paintings,” Baselitz has declared, “I begin to do things as if I were the first, the only one, as if none of these examples existed.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., Bordeaux, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Baselitz Sculptures, 1983, p. 18) The mid-1960s signaled the true attainment of this new ground. Coinciding with the creation of his Hero series from 1965-66, Baselitz moved his family to the remote German countryside in search of isolation: “I started to cut myself off from the others, completely shutting myself away, didn’t join in art circles and tried to develop pictures that would, yes, provoke.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, Baselitz, 2007, p. 11) Maintaining a distance from academic art as well as a burgeoning German avant-garde led by Joseph Beuys, here Baselitz created new archetypes based on the traditional folkloric imagery of woodlands, animals and huntsmen.

Occupying a unique position between still-life, landscape and figuration, Ein Stück Malerei typifies the angst filled iconography of this key period. As noted by Diane Waldman, “among his German precursors – Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer, Caspar David Friedrich, and Emil Nolde – were models who had dealt with both beauty and ugliness. In his own paintings, Baselitz has attempted to reconcile past and present, beauty and ugliness through the creation of prototypes – ‘motifs,’ as he called them – outside of time.” (Diane Waldman in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Georg Baselitz, 1995, p. 34) With a composition that is almost uncomfortably full yet still evokes a palpable desolation, the sardonic melancholy that resonates from the clumsy pile of esoteric creatures here seeks to dismantle the mythological magnificence of ideological symbols, exploring a new territory that recognizes the fragmentary state of contemporary German painting.

As an early example of Baselitz’s iconic Frakturbilder, the composition is severed by a horizontal line running across the canvas, disavowing any claims to naturalism and calling into question the relative coherence of the two viewpoints. Mocking the illusionism of three point perspective – a cornerstone of classical painting – Baselitz’s contemptuous disruption of the image plane overrides the perspectival challenges laid out in modernist movements such as Cubism with an irreverent appeal to the absurd. As such, Baselitz claims an ultimate abandon of precedent. This is equally reflected in the unparalleled peculiarity of his brushwork which circulates around in exquisite dissonance.  As noted by Richard Schiff, “Baselitz never allowed his marks to become calligraphy, that is, to become beautiful in themselves. Each attains its own ugliness by becoming a bit too big […]. Oversized, coarsened, each pulls apart from its neighbor even when it is part of a decorative pattern, resulting in pockets of local disharmony.” (Richard Schiff, “Feet too Big,” Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, Baselitz, 2007, p. 27) Yet as one of the most resolved paintings from this period, for all its inherent discord and fracture, there is a profound sense of pictorial balance. Ein Stück Malerei finds Baselitz's brushwork at its most confident, ordered and supple. Masterfully layering and blending tones with an unusual sense of delicacy and care, Baselitz imbues his forms with volume and depth. Here, the artist yields the sinister palette, synonymous with these early works, with a unique sense of consideration. Scattering passionate reds across the canvas in bound planes, intensified by their soft pale green and muddy gold counterparts, Baselitz’s chromatic nuances are bound through a determined network of black delineation. Evidencing his sheer mastery of this idiosyncratic painterly style, the present work’s pervasive sense of cohesive logic creates a vision that explores a profoundly strange beauty in the heart of aesthetic turmoil.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York