LONDON – The forthcoming Contemporary Art Day sale at Sotheby's London features works by three leading artists in figuration, an area that has witnessed a renewed interest in the past few years. Until recently, process-based practices exploring non-objective picture making dominated the contemporary art scene, while young figurative painters remained under the radar. Of course, a handful of blue-chip artists have consistently fetched record prices for representational works for decades – Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter come to mind – however, the emerging art market darlings were mainly producing abstract pictures.

Today, talented young artists such as Adrian Ghenie and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye assert the continued relevance of portraiture, a genre once dismissed by the avant-garde establishment. Yiadom-Boakye's portraits of imaginary sitters earned her the 2012 Pinchuk Foundation Future Generation Prize, she was short-listed for the 2013 Turner Prize and her work was included in the Encyclopaedic Palace exhibition during the 2013 Venice Biennale. Her paintings A Quarter and Conspiracies are both consummate examples of her unique approach to picture making: by unfolding open-ended narratives, the scenes depicted leave space for the viewer's imagination.


LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, CONSPIRACIES, 2010. ESTIMATE £30,000–40,000.

Adrian Ghenie, whose much anticipated solo exhibition at CAC Málaga will open in December, paints carefully composed pictures in glossy oil that is then scraped off and blurred, delivering a powerful, cinematic effect: the out-of-focus background and smeared pigment towards the character’s face in Ghenie’s Hunger calls to mind the digital noise of a flickering screen.


ADRIAN GHENIE, HUNGER, 2008. ESTIMATE £50,000–70,000.

Another wonderful storyteller is Belgian artist Michaël Borremans, whose theatrical work The Skirt from one of his most iconic series will be sold on 18 October to benefit the Parasol Unit’s tenth anniversary. The traveling exhibition, Michaël Borremans: As Sweet as It Gets, featuring selected works from his nostalgic and psychologically incisive oeuvre is currently on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was previously displayed at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and will later travel to the Dallas Museum of Art.

Each artist, in their own subjective way and with their own compelling visual arguments, displays outstanding painterly flair and sheds new light on representational picture making.


MICHAËL BORREMANS. THE SKIRT, 2005. ESTIMATE £150,000–200,000.

Clémence Tasiaux is a specialist in the Contemporary Art department, Sotheby’s London. 

Contemporary Art Day will be held at Sotheby's London.
Exhibition: 10–17 October
Auction: 18 October
Enquiries: +44 (0)20 7293 5936

Tags:Contemporary Art, Auction Previews, London