Lot 48
  • 48

Adrian Ghenie

350,000 - 550,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Adrian Ghenie
  • Memories
  • signed and dated 2007 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


Haunch of Venison, Zurich

Private Collection, Switzerland

Pace Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Juerg Judin, Ed., Adrian Ghenie - Shadow of a Daydream, Zurich 2008, pp. 6-7 and 36, illustrated in colour

Juerg Judin, Ed., Adrian Ghenie, Ostfildern 2009, p. 41, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Constructing an enigmatic perspectival space through dramatic yet delicate shadowing, Adrian Ghenie’s wistful Memories exemplifies the artist’s ineffably contemporary visual lexicon. Recently galvanised by his highly revered exhibition as the representative for his native Romania at the 2015 Venice Bienale, Ghenie’s commercial and institutional recognition has grown exponentially in recent years, with the artist fast becoming one of the most coveted painters of his generation. Executed in 2007 and taking a set of discarded film spools as its subject, here Ghenie’s nostalgic take on this antiquated viewing technology speaks not only of his ongoing concern with the intersection of cinema and painting, but more broadly to his wider project, which interrogates the history of image creation and through which he positions painting as a timeless and trans-historic visual medium. Evidencing a unique re-imagination of the still-life genre, Ghenie’s luscious surface maintains a unique composition of expressionistic swathes and intricately referential brushstrokes that traverse and usurp stylistic idioms. Ultimately he constructs a disquieting tableau that collapses historic paradigms, fusing his radically new sense of gesture with anachronistic subject to summate what he has referred to as “the texture of history” (Adrian Ghenie in conversation with Magda Radu, in: Exh. Cat., Venice, Romanian Pavilion, Biennale de Venezia, Adrian Ghenie: Darwin’s Room, 2015, p. 29).

The peculiar position that cinema holds between truth and illusion has provided Ghenie with fertile grounds for conceptual and formal investigations. Cast in a cold grey light, it is undoubtedly the capacity of the silver screen to conjure fiction in the guise of reality that Ghenie has expertly channeled into the present work. As the artist has remarked upon the mystical allure of film: “I’m jealous of the specific power of cinema to build a virtual state, and of its capacity to break with reality. For two hours you’re completely under its spell! And there’s something spectacular and seductive about this entire story which has become so familiar to us; we’ve been going to the cinema for one hundred years already, so it’s almost routine and we don’t even analyze how incredible this cinematographic medium really is” (Ibid., pp. 82-83). David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock are two filmmakers that Ghenie has cited as key influences on his work, both of whom expressed an enduring penchant for sinister and surreal imagery. Bearing undeniable familiarity yet also unsettling sense of inherent strangeness, here Ghenie imbues his curiously arranged, inanimate spools with a somewhat ironic sense of latent narrative. Whilst holding the potential to visualise an imaginative universe, the discarded reels of film remain to us inactive; seemingly banal yet infinitely enticing.

Ghenie challenges the pathos of the still-image in the face of an increasingly technologised visual culture. Confidently instilling his shimmering picture plane with the magic of cinema he hints at the endless fecundity of the medium against the perpetual antiquation of the material elements of film production. Typically working from source images viewed on his laptop screen, the artist champions the act of giving corporeal form to imagery in an increasingly cerebral, digitised, social landscape. This peculiar method of working redresses the relationship between source and reference in contemporary acts of recording through imagery, whilst simultaneously drawing equivalence between mediums in their capacity to document, to reinterpret, and to beguile. Proclaiming himself as part of a generation that “knows what life was like before the Internet”, Ghenie speaks of a realisation “that the world is changing its texture, is changing its skin […] The world is beginning to have the texture of easy-to-clean surfaces. It no longer has pores. All the objects around us are beginning to be shinier and shinier” (Ibid. p. 32).

Flooded with references to the development of painting – from the melancholic chiaroscuro of Caravaggio to the slick brush undulations of Francis Bacon – here Ghenie employs the broad reach of the medium to subsume the historical development of the image-making technologies, ultimately forming a trans-historical mode of visualising the world.