Lot 118
  • 118

Donald Judd

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Donald Judd
  • Untitled (85 - 5 Lehni AG)
  • stamped DONALD JUDD 85-5 LEHNI AG SWITZERLAND on the reverse
  • painted aluminium
  • 30 by 90 by 30cm.; 11 3/4 by 35 1/2 by 11 3/4 in.


Galleria Lia Rumma, Naples
Acquired directly from the above by the late owner


Colours:The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the yellow is richer and brighter in the original.Condition:This work is in good condition. There are a few tiny and unobtrusive nicks to the extreme outer edges; on the left extreme outer edge towards the lower left corner and on the centre of the top element and to the lower right corner tip. Close inspection reveals an extremely faint and shallow scratch to the overturn edge of the brown element on the upper right corner. Further close inspection reveals three further shallow and short scratches; one to the overturn edge of the yellow element, and two to the inside edge of the red element.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1984, Untitled (85-5 Lehni AG) is an early example of Donald Judd’s chromatic wall pieces, and utilises his characteristic vocabulary of pure forms. The artist once commented that: "material, space and colour are the main aspects of visual art. Everyone knows that there is material that can be picked up and sold, but no one sees space and colour. Two of the main aspects of art are invisible; the basic nature of art is invisible. The integration of visual art is not seen" (Donald Judd, quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Donald Judd. Colourist, Hannover, Sprengel Museum and travelling, 2000, n.p.). Untitled (85-5 Lehni AG) embodies this ambition to unify and ruminate on these central elements of material, colour and space in a solid form, as discussed in his essay ‘Specific Objects’ of 1964.

Extending from the wall and democratically displayed on a level with the viewer, Untitled (85-5 Lehni AG) captures its audience with its rich, earthy black and brown tones in conjunction with vibrant yellow and crimson red hues. These colours contrast and reverberate with an optical dynamism, arresting the viewer in its presence. In its visual exploration of colour combining, this piece departs from Judd’s earlier practice of exclusively utilising raw industrial materials, such as plywood and metal, and extends his intellectual practise as he engages with the inescapable element of colour in artistic production. Just a year before his death, he concluded that: "it never occurred to me to make a three dimensional work without colour. Colour is like material. It is one way or another, but it obdurately exists. Its existence as it is the main fact and not what it might mean, which may be nothing [...] If there were an identifiable feeling to red or to red and black together they would not be useable to me [...] Colour, like material, is what art is made from. It alone is not art." (Donald Judd, 'Some Aspects of Colour in General and Red and Black in Particular', 1993, Ibid., pp. 110-14).

As Judd makes plain, colour alone does not make a successful and meaningful work of art. In Untitled (85-5 Lehni AG), by utilising open space and a revealing internal structure, in a similar manner to the free-standing structures of Sol LeWitt in this collection, Judd plays with and ultimately rejects the closed and limited frontal bias of traditional wall-based art, such as painting. The stacking and ordering of horizontal forms in specific colours here alludes to infinite conceptual possibilities. In skilfully combining elements of colour and geometric order, Judd creates a connection between the coloured blocks and spaces, which come together to create a significant and visually appealing whole, and makes the viewer aware of their presence and size in relation to the piece. Untitled (85-5 Lehni AG) is a successful and important work by Donald Judd, continuing to be, in his own words, a "simple expression of complex thought".