LONDON - “I am just a narrator who comments on the history of painting in various ways, using new materials,” said Spanish artist Manolo Valdés. Exemplifying his interest in the legacy of the great masters, Bailarina is characterised by a unique approach to volume and materiality that has become the defining quality of Valdés’s commanding large-scale sculptures.

With its 17th-century-style coiffure, the figure resembles that of the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain from Diego Velázquez’s 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas. Velázquez remained an enduring point of reference for many modern artists, including Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.  Valdés combines this allusion to the Spanish master with the iconic image of a ballerina – a keystone in the iconography of modern European art: think Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who explored the vast tonal, graphic, and stylistic possibilities offered by these dancers.  


Reduced to basic bodily form, and simultaneously removed from any sense of historical context, the dancer is here presented in a way that does not merely imitate the works of past masters, but rather confronts their historical legacy with new possibilities. By augmenting the figure’s scale and minimising its details, particularly with regards to the face, Valdés creates an abstract expression blended with a pop aesthetic, which further places the subject in a contemporary setting. Ultimately, it is a triumphant affirmation of the reality of an object extending beyond its volume, asserting Valdés’s status as both artist and art historian.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

11 February 2016 | London