Remote Curation: Specialist Picks from 'I Have to Stay at Home'

Remote Curation: Specialist Picks from 'I Have to Stay at Home'

Chapters

The newly-opened sale I Have to Stay at Home includes exceptional works by the world's leading artists such as Martin Kippenberger, Bridget Riley and Anselm Kiefer, and which Sotheby's Contemporary specialists have dubbed 'an auction for lockdown'. As it opens for bidding, members of the team select and discuss their personal highlight, and consider art's ability to surprise, entertain, comfort and delight.


Marina Ruiz Colomer on William Kentridge

What is it about this particular work that resonates with you?

I love the ability that Kendridge has to make up stories. This work in particular is part of Automatic Writing, a film that the artist made in 2003 where one of the stills is this drawing. Aside from being an incredible draughtsman, Kentridge is an incredible storyteller. In this work one of the characters that feature regularly in his oeuvre; Felix Teitlebaum – a kind of alter ego for the artist – appears naked and sitting at his desk towards the end of the film. I love how Kentridge has managed to capture a sort of exhaustion and defeat in Teitelbaum, there is almost an air of resignation about him that I think only a great artist would be able to capture. Seeing a work like this makes me want to know more about the story behind it, and that, for me, is what a great work of art is able to do.

What will you take out of lockdown that wasn’t previously part of your life or work?

I have learned to take things a bit more slowly, to be kinder to myself and to really make time to do things that I enjoy doing instead of getting caught up in the madness of everyday life in London. I have made time to read – both fiction and books about artists I like but don’t know a lot about; go on walks, cook, exercise…but I have learned to be more intentional about these things instead of being on auto-pilot which tends to be my default setting.

Marina Ruiz Colomer, Head of Contemporary Art Day Sale, Sotheby's.

Alain de Botton has talked about using Art as Therapy, and as way to navigate complex situations in life. Can you relate to that sentiment? Can we use to art to decipher complex problems?

In a way yes. It might not be an immediate answer or an obvious realisation, but I do believe that art awakens certain feelings in the viewer, and elicits a reaction in her. There are some works which have made me feel in very different ways and have made me think of different experiences or moments in my life, and that is something that is great and unique about art. It is impossible to stand in front of Picasso’s Guernica, for example, and not feel anything. Even if I didn’t live the events depicted I can’t help but feel a great amount of sorrow for anyone affected by war, think about Spain’s troubled history and how that has affected every generation since the Civil War…every detail in that work has a story that one can relate to. I am not sure I am deciphering a problem when I look at a work of art, but I am certainly identifying emotions which are sometimes connected to thoughts or memories.

Do you remember the first artwork that stopped you in your tracks?

It might not be the first one that stopped me in my tracks (my mum used to drag me and my brother to museums from a very young age so I have many memories of looking at art) but one that I remember very vividly was a Mark Rothko that I saw in Madrid years and years ago – I don’t even remember the museum I was in. The work had its own room and was hung against a dark background. I remember standing in front of it as in a trance, it felt as if the colours were floating off the composition. It made me feel very calm, almost in a meditative state, and I was amazed that a painting could do something like that. I have always remembered that work!

Marina Ruiz Colomer is Head of the Contemporary Art Day Sale at Sotheby's in London


Hugo Cobb on Anselm Kiefer

What is it about this particular work that resonates with you?

This painting is an immersive transfixing riot of colour and texture. It’s beautiful, but tragic. The work is based on on a Rimbaud poem about a soldier from the Franco-Prussian war dying in a field surrounded by nature; a sort of juxtaposition of human violence vs. pastoral calm and bliss. I think you see a lot of that contrast in the painting. I’m particularly drawn to the sharp accents of thick impasto red that recall the wounds recounted in the poem.

What will you take out of lockdown that wasn’t previously part of your life or work?

I have become an intent, near obsessive, twitcher. I will never take Britain’s garden birds for granted again.

Hugo Cobb, Associate Specialist, Contemporary Art.


Alain de Botton has talked about using Art as Therapy, and as way to navigate complex situations in life. Can you relate to that sentiment? Can we use to art to decipher complex problems?

I’m sure we can! Indeed we must. Interestingly, museum attendance outstripped football match attendance in Britain last year – so that must speak to something. Hearing about people's first experiences with particular paintings at an early age, or the work they return to again and again just demonstrates the power art can have over us.

Do you remember the first artwork that stopped you in your tracks?

Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time by Bronzino. Terrific painting. Love, war, agony, and ecstasy in one relatively small panel. It’s astonishingly complex; like a whole season of Game of Thrones in a single vignette.

Hugo Cobb is Associate Specialist Contemporary Art at Sotheby's in London.

Witt Kegel on Howard Hodgkin

What is it about this particular work that resonates with you?

Without a doubt, it’s the colour palette. The fiery brushstrokes really vibrate against the green; it exudes a sense of intensity that is very arresting! Hodgkin manipulated colour with great feeling and emotion, creating fantastic spontaneous compositions that are often intimately connected to his state of mind. To me, the vibrancy of Through a Glass Darkly offers an undeniable sense of optimism, despite its somewhat gloomy title.

Witt Kegel, Cataloguer, Contemporary Art.

What will you take out of lockdown that wasn’t previously part of your life or work?

Like almost everyone I know, during lockdown I have dived headfirst into the world of sourdough. I have nearly perfected my rye sourdough loaf, and though it is incredibly time consuming, I am hoping to continue baking bread beyond lockdown.

Alain de Botton has talked about using Art as Therapy, and as way to navigate complex situations in life. Can you relate to that sentiment? Can we use to art to decipher complex problems?

There are endless ways in which Art acts as therapy. Whether it’s the meditative feeling of getting lost in a drawing, or the escapism of discovering a truly great painting, Art can certainly transport us from the mundanities of staying at home.

Do you remember the first artwork that stopped you in your tracks?

When I was very young, on a family holiday to Havana, we came across Louise Bourgeois’s monumental Spider outside the Wilfredo Lam Centre. I was stunned and completely transfixed by enormity and impossibility of this beast towering above me. This surprise encounter is certainly etched into my memory.

Witt Kegel is a Cataloguer, Contempory Art at Sotheby's in London.


Tom Eddison on Bridget Riley

What is it about this particular work that resonates with you?

That at 89 years young, Riley is still exploring her optical investigations, is extraordinary and really cements her as the doyenne of British Art. Measure to Measure is part of her recent series ‘Disc Paintings’, an advancement of her work in the early 70s and inspired by the pointillist Georges Seurat for whom she has been long associated with. Like all her best works, Measure for Measure synthesises colour, composition and form, whilst confronting themes of perception. This painting projects this refined sensation of movement that really demands an intimate and personal engagement.

The interaction of each subtle colour vibrates, projecting a sensation of constant movement – a subtle melody; etching each glimpse, each small pulse into our visual memory. This interaction of form and colour are so critical in Riley’s work. When Riley introduced the use of colour into her work in 1967- a departure from the black-and-white paintings- she said: “colour inevitably leads you to the world outside...”, and I find that so true here. The inspiration of Georges Seurat is apparent, but for me, this harmonious combination of greyed-greens, soft violets, and off-oranges is a palette of Constable, of pastoral England and a yearning to return to the outside world.

Tom Eddison, Director, Specialist Contemporary Art

What will you take out of lockdown that wasn’t previously part of your life or work?

With respect to my colleagues, I very much look forward to reducing the number of video conference calls! I am looking forward to seeing family, friends, colleagues and collectors face to face, to watching live rugby, listening to the cricket on Test Match Special and visiting all the museums and galleries that London affords. So, I suppose I will take out of lockdown a deeper appreciation of all the things I take for granted.

Alain de Botton has talked about using Art as Therapy, and as way to navigate complex situations in life. Can you relate to that sentiment? Can we use to art to decipher complex problems?

Francis Bacon said “If you can talk about, why paint it”. Typically provocative I suppose, but I do think it is pertinent. Great art can, silently and without prompt, unlock the senses that other avenues are unable to; from joy, anger, vulnerability, strength to the whole roster of deadly sins and be a very personal conversation. A painting can confront you with a mirror or a window, a vehicle for contemplation or escapism. Personally, I am a lazy and haphazard reader, I am no reciter of poetry and opera just hasn’t clicked with me, so art is I suppose my own therapeutic vice. Well, that and good bottle of Bordeaux.


Do you remember the first artwork that stopped you in your tracks?

I remember from a very early age, amongst all the England rugby posters, having a poster in my bedroom of Joan Miró’s Painting from 1927, a mesmeric example of his ‘dream paintings’, with its deep cerulean blue ground – still one of my favourite bodies of work. Funnily enough, I spotted that same poster in the corner of my father’s office on a recent Zoom call – I don’t think I have seen it in about 20 years, so that brought back some memories.

But I suppose the very first painting that really stopped me in my tracks, and I recall it vividly, was Henri Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm or Surprise! at the National Gallery in London. I must have been about six years old and I remember standing in front, of what seemed then, this enormous painting. It is totally immersive; the vast verdant canopy, raging storm and gnarled-toothed crouching tiger, forced me to engage - it felt very much ‘alive’. Extraordinary. In truth the painting is not that large (130 by 160cm), but it if you stand in front of it today it still has the power to completely engulf you.

Tom Eddison is Director, Specialist Contemporary Art at Sotheby's in London.

Contemporary Art
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