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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Adrian Ghenie
B. 1977
DR. MENGELE 2
signed and dated 2011 on the reverse
oil on canvas
49 by 43cm.
19 1/4 by 16 7/8 in.
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Provenance

Haunch of Venison, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2011

Exhibited

London, Haunch of Venison, Adrian Ghenie, 2011

Catalogue Note

Powerfully scraped, smeared and blurred, Adrian Ghenie’s portrait, Dr Mengele 2, vitally traverses and dissects disconcerting truths with extraordinary painterly effect. Delivering emblematic depictions of notorious men, the artist’s recent series of paintings, to which the present work belongs, explores the Third Reich’s exploitation of Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection. Very much indebted to Gerhard Richter’s painterly dialogue with Germany’s Nazi past, the present work depicts the infamous Holocaust Doctor, Josef Mengele. An SS Physician stationed at Auschwitz, Mengele first rose to prominence within medical circles for his research into Eugenics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Located in Berlin – the city where Adrian Ghenie lives and works today – the Institute was founded in 1927 with the specific intention of furthering medical expertise into the controversial field of bio-genetic science. Zealously promoted by the Third Reich, the Eugenics movement exploited scientific reasoning in the perverse attainment of genetic supremacy. Like an echo of Richter’s 1965, Dr Heyde – a blurred black and white Photo Painting of the eponymous Nazi War Criminal imprisoned for his involvement in the euthanasia programme – Dr Mengele’s visage invokes his notorious identity as the ‘Angel of Death’. Whilst at Auschwitz, Mengele infamously performed experiments on the camp’s prisoners, crimes for which he successfully eluded persecution during his lifetime. By confronting this difficult subject, Ghenie identifies the ambiguity of scientific discovery and the evils by which it can so easily be turned into something malefic; as Ghenie recently described: “I think this will be very much the problem in the 21st century; how medicine can be corrupted and turn our lives into a nightmare" (the artist interviewed at Palazzo Grassi, June 2011). Sourced from a photo-booth style portrait, Mengele’s austere appearance and haunting stare is in Ghenie’s painting distorted, scraped over and violently rubbed out; the immaculate sheen of the photograph is replaced in favour of a visceral painterly facture. Herein, Ghenie’s Dr Mengele 2 utterly bespeaks of an abiding inspiration from Twentieth Century master of existential suffering, Francis Bacon. As illustrated by the present work, Ghenie subsumes Bacon’s isolated and brutal treatment of the human figure alongside his longstanding assimilation of photographic media and even Nazi motifs. At once cautionary and malicious, yet imperative and questioning, Ghenie’s Mengele is an extraordinary painting replete with deepest resonance and affect.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London