Lot 336
  • 336

Rudolf Stingel

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 96 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 172.7 by 134.6cm.; 67 7/8 by 53in.


Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Tina Kim Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although it fails to fully convey the rich texture of the impasto visible in places in the original. The catalogue illustrations shows two dark lines running along the vertical edges, which are shadows on the photograph and are not visible in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Please contact the Contemporary Department for further details.
"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 1996, Untitled powerfully epitomizes Rudolf Stingel’s innovative practice that has been described by Francesco Bonami as one that can “redefine what painting can be, what it has been, what it is” (Francesco Bonami cited in: Michelle Grabner, ‘Rudolf Stingel’, Frieze, April 2007, Issue 106, online resource). The work’s striking red surface, with its highly textured, thickly impastoed areas immediately triggers thoughts about how it came into being: paint, in a bright crimson hue has been exuberantly pressed, dragged and smeared across a purely white surface, and it is this highly sensuous quality of Untitled that places it at the very centre of Stingel’s practice. As Chrissy Iles has rightly described: “Stingel’s approach to surface is always paradoxical…he is…deeply interested in its seductive, tactile quality” (Chrissy Isles, ‘Surface Tension’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and travelling, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 24).

Born in Merano, a small town in South Tyrol, Stingel arrived in New York in the early nineties, causing a stir with his debut show at the Daniel Newburg Gallery. There, the artist covered the gallery’s entire floor with a dazzling orange carpet and visitors were invited to step on it, inevitably changing its surface, their footprints becoming part of the work. Stingel later famously revisited this idea in several occasions; in 1993, for example, a 5.2 by 9m area of carpeted wall was displayed at Aperto 93 - a section of the Venice Biennale that showed emerging talents - and in 2007, for his mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and The Whitney Museum in New York, large expanses of each museum’s galleries were covered in aluminium foil where visitors could touch, write and scrape off the surface and leave their mark on the work. In these and other occasions the viewer was given the chance to reflect on the process of making and to inhabit the artist’s position. Similarly, when standing in front of Untitled, the mind wanders into the artist’s studio, each energetic gesture performed mentally, every swab, every peak, every trough repeated again until the entire surface is covered in raging carmine.

This performative, interactive aspect of Stingel’s work is summarized by yet another of the artist’s iconic pieces: Instructions from 1989. Consisting of a DIY-like manual, Instructions enabled the reader to make one of Stingel’s ‘silver paintings’. The set of instructions challenged the very idea of the artist as the creator, questioning what painting could do and what its possibilities were at a time when painting had been proclaimed dead and Minimalism, Conceptual Art and photography-based art were dominating the artistic scene. Stingel’s own ‘silver paintings’ are heavily layered canvases that are topped by a shimmering coat of silver paint, creating optical illusions when viewed from different angles. After producing these, the artist developed the series further, deciding to disregard the final metallic layer and reveal the underlying strata of brightly coloured paint. Untitled, from 1996, is part of this new series, where the bright red sweeps of paint contrast starkly against the white background.

Throughout his career Rudolf Stingel has been able to successfully incorporate a highly conceptual aspect to his materials and process-based practice. His preoccupation with what painting is and what it can achieve has taken him to challenge every assumption or theory about the medium. Having started his career at a time where painting’s end had been declared, Stingel followed his own direction, becoming part of a generation of artists who instead of abandoning the medium decided to explore it further. Like Sigmar Polke, Stingel has used every material imaginable in his works, from the most traditional to the most unorthodox. Like Gerhard Richter, he has distilled the very essence of painting, the sensuality of the medium and its theoretical aspects. With Untitled, as with the rest of his works Stingel “demonstrates an acute awareness of the aspirations, failures and challenges to Modernist painting, while at the same time expressing a sincere belief in painting itself, focussing on formal characteristics including colour, gesture, composition, and, most importantly, surface” (Gary Carrion-Murayari, ‘Untitled’ in: Hatje Catz, Ed., Rudolf Stingel, 2008, p. 112).