Lot 163
  • 163

Carlos Cruz-Diez

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Carlos Cruz-Diez
  • Physichromie No. 568
  • signed, titled and dated Paris Oct. 1971 on the reverse
  • acrylic and laminated plastic on board
  • 70.7 by 141.7cm.; 27 7/8 by 55 3/4 in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1971


New York, Galerie Denise René, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 1971


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although it fails to convey the versatile nature of the work's surface, which changes according to the viewer's vantage point. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Visible only in raking light are a few shallow and unobtrusive surface scratches to the aluminium frame. Extremely close inspection reveals a few minute, isolated and unobtrusive media accretions in places.
"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 1971, Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Physichromie no. 568 epitomises the artist’s continual engagement and revolutionary use of colour as a medium. Composed of multiple bands of coloured card laboriously assembled on a wooden support, Physichromie no. 568 is, as its title describes, the physical representation of colour. Indeed, when viewing the present work from different perspectives, each tone is activated, creating a vibrating composition that changes subtly and harmoniously dependent on the viewer’s stance. Prestigiously exhibited at the Galerie Denise René in New York in 1971, Physichromie no. 568 was acquired directly from the artist that same year, and has remained in the same collection ever since.

Carlos Cruz-Diez’s fascination with colour dates back to the artist’s own childhood, and he fondly remembers being enthralled by the colours of sunrise in his native Venezuela as a child. In a recent interview, the artist also recalled how as a young boy, he would play in the his father’s fizzy drinks factory. The factory workers would place the glass bottles in window displays, allowing the rays of sunlight to filter through them. The young Cruz-Diez was captivated by the reflections these rays made on the floor and on himself, a feeling that the artist would retain and cherish in his memory. Many years later Cruz-Diez visited Paris, where he would end up moving with his family, and where he was thrilled to discover Cubism and Impressionism. What excited him most was how the artists in each movement had represented the object from different perspectives and at different moments in time all at once, using colour and repetition not only to reproduce reality but also their own experience of it. In Paris, too, the artist was able to visit the radical exhibition Le Mouvement at the Galerie Denise René in 1955, which further stimulated him and prompted his investigations into colour and movement and to create his own, original artistic discourse. His breakthrough, however, came in a fortuitous way: the artist was working as a graphic designer and, when opening his working sheets, realised that the colour that saturated one of them reflected on the one beside it. That seemingly unimportant moment was revelatory for Cruz-Diez, who since then devoted his career to study the instability of colour and the picture plane, creating works that engaged directly with the viewer’s senses and perception. Recognising the artist’s visionary brilliance, Denise René included his Physichromies in the show Le Mouvement 2 in 1964, and began representing him and showcasing his work alongside other artists such as Josef Albers, Jean Tinguely and Jesús Rafael Soto.

Elegantly rhythmic in its beautiful display of the whole chromatic spectrum, Physichromie no. 568 perfectly encapsulates Cruz-Diez’s unique artistic vision. When walking in front of it, the viewer is captured in the delicate tonal changes of the work, which feel almost like an atmospheric experience rather than only a visual one. Created at the height of Cruz-Diez’s widely acknowledged career - and only one year after the artist was chosen to represent Venezuela at the Venice Biennale - Physichromie no. 568 thus stands as an extraordinary display of the artist’s deft manipulation of colour and perception, a truly unique and revolutionary quest that the artist continues to resolutely pursue in new and surprising ways.