3
3
Günther Uecker
ROSE
Estimate
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500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 848,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
3
Günther Uecker
ROSE
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.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
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.
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 848,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

In Context Italian Art

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London

Günther Uecker
B. 1930
ROSE
signed, titled and dated 64 on the reverse
kaolin and nails on canvas on board
99 by 66 by 7.5 cm. 39 by 26 by 3 in.
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Provenance

Howard Wise Gallery, New York

Private Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1966)

Thence by descent to the present owner in 2001

Exhibited

New York, Howard Wise Gallery, Mack, Piene, Uecker: Zero, November – December 1964, n.p., no. 7, (text)

Literature

Dieter Honisch, Uecker, Stuttgart 1983, p. 196, no. 373, (text)

Georges Elgozy, ‘De la peinture en mouvement’, Art International, Vol. IX/8, 20 November 1965, n.p., (text)

Catalogue Note

A leading figure in the theoretical and liberal pursuit of an artistic tabula rasa, Günther Uecker was one of the key members of the ZERO group. He joined the group, founded in 1957 by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, in 1961. Seeking to discover an entirely new creative language unencumbered by extraneous concerns and traditional ideas of representation, ZERO artists employed light and motion as a means to radicalise artistic expression. Contemporaneous to the birth of ZERO in Germany there were a number of avant-garde movements across the globe with similar aesthetic and conceptual ambitions, including Italy's Azimuth (Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani), Holland's Nul (Armando, Jan Henderikse, Jan Schoonhoven, Herman de Vries), France's Nouveaux Réalistes (Arman, Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri), and Japan's Gutai group (Jirô Yoshihara, Shozo, Shimamoto, Kazuo, Shiraga, Atsuko Tanaka, among others); as well as the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Rose, which is a reference to the poetry of Gertrude Stein and in particular the famous quote from her 1913 poem Sacred Emily, was executed at the height of Uecker’s immersion in the ZERO group (between 1961 and 1966) and is wholly paradigmatic of the movement’s key tenets of calming purity.  

In the wake of World War II, many artists were striving for an artistic expression that would satisfy their need for a new beginning, a base ‘zero’, free from the gestural brushwork and pictorial sentimentality of the Tachisme and Art Informel movements that proliferated during the 1950s. This was nowhere achieved as pertinently as in the ZERO group. As succinctly summarised by Otto Piene: “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new” (Otto Piene, ‘Die Entstehung der Gruppe ‘Zero’’, The Times Literary Supplement, 3 September 1964, n.p.). Herein, the group’s name aptly referenced the countdown for a rocket launch and advocated a radical new beginning for modern art. The artist who is considered the trailblazer of this new form of artistic expression and who worked closely with the ZERO group’s ‘inner core’ was Lucio Fontana. Fontana’s drastic slashing of the canvas offered a philosophical glimpse into the infinite void beyond and radically changed the discourse of painting. A generation older, Fontana is heralded as a forefather and mentor to Italy’s Azimuth, as well as Germany’s ZERO artists. Interestingly, he was indeed an early collector of Heinz Mack’s work, having (unbeknownst to Mack) bought a work by the artist from his first Paris show.

A white washed relief suffused by a vivid interplay of light and dark, Rose reflects the primary concerns of the ZERO movement. Pure colour and light was seen as the essence of cosmic power and became synonymous with the spiritual liberation of the individual. As outlined by Uecker: “My objects are spatial realities, zones of light. I use mechanical means in order to overcome the subjective gesture, to objectify it, and to create the situation of freedom” (Günther Uecker cited in: Alexander Tolnay, Ed., Günther Uecker Twenty Chapters, Ostfildern-Ruit 2006, p. 54). Rose endures as a model of subtle elegance and dynamism. A duality of rhythmic structure and loose chaos creates a dynamic effect that is as vigorous as it is enthralling. With an almost ritualistic repetition Uecker hammered in nails at slanting angles and various depths. The jutting landscape of nails is transformed by a dramatic chiaroscuro effect, which varies depending on view point and position of light and delivers an entirely unique visual experience. As described by Uecker, the nail is “the ideal object with which to model light and shadow – to make time visible… It protrudes as a tactile feeler from the flat surface, much like a sundial” (Günther Uecker cited in: Ibid, p. 72).

A lyrical coalition of the primary principles of Uecker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, Rose affords a revolutionary departure from the conventional concepts of pictorial space. It is a poetic embodiment of the meditative powers of art, whose spiritual enterprise finds a subtly differing ontological response in every viewer.

In Context Italian Art

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London