Lot 2
  • 2

Rosemarie Trockel

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Rosemarie Trockel
  • O.T. (Death's Heads)
  • numbered artist's proof 1 on the stretcher
  • knitted wool 
  • 200 by 150cm.; 78 3/4 by 59in.
  • Executed in 1990, this work is number 1 of 3 artist’s proofs, aside from an edition of 5.


Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne

Skarstedt Gallery, New York 

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2005


Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, - . - = + aber menschlich bin ich nie darüber hinweg gekommen, 1989, another example exhibited 

Bonn, Bonner Kunstverein, Zehn Jahre Kunstfonds, 1991, another example exhibited, p. 89, illustrated

Boston, The Institue of Contemporary Art; Berkeley, University Art Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Toronto, The Power Plant; and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Rosemarie Trockel, 1991-92, another example exhibited 

Le Havre, Musée des Beaux Arts André Malraux; Rouen, Usine-Fromage École d'Architecture; and Evreux, Musée de L'Ancien Évêché, Ceci n'est pas une image, 1992, another example exhibited 

Munich, Sammlung Goetz, Rosemarie Trockel, 2002, another example exhibited, p. 99, illustrated in colour and p. 14 installation view


Exhibition Catalogue, Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, 2005, p. 170, illustration of another example 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although there is more orange in the yellow chequered background in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"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

Conceived as a riposte to German critic Wolfgang M. Faust’s provocative claim that connected ‘woman and weaving’, Rosemarie Trockel’s iconic Strickbilder, or knitted pictures, of which O.T. (Death’s Heads) is an iconographically rare example, playfully question the assumed hierarchy of artistic mediums. With ethereal skulls poignantly stitched across the work’s hypnotic chequered surface, the present work delves into a complex inventory of art historical references. Trockel embarked on this vigorous yet disquieting body of knitted work in the mid-1980s, bringing a feminine sensibility to Joseph Beuys’ socialising of art into a project for reform. Her poetic, handmade aesthetic draws upon a gendered female universe that seeks to blur and transgress the distinct dichotomies established in a male-dominated society by dealing with the personal/universal, intimate/societal and the concept of the handmade versus the machine in her art. An incredibly desired work, other examples of O.T. (Death's Heads) are held in the Rubell Family Collection and Goetz Collection. 

Suffering from agoraphobia from a young age, Trockel became something of a prisoner in her own home. Governed by this isolated framework, Trockel created her own fiercely individual approach to art, which primarily heightens an awareness of difference, a difference that she strives to abjure and diminish. To fabricate her enigmatic works, Trockel first choses a pattern: “the patterns I use are, in principle, ones I come upon in knitting books magazines like Brigitte, and designs for tapestries, fabrics, etc. In fact, the meaning of the concept ‘pattern’ is the model to be copied" (Rosemarie Trockel quoted in: Elisabeth Sussman, ‘The Body’s Inventory – the Exotic and Mundane in Rosemarie Trockel’s Art’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Rosemarie Trockel, 1991, p. 34). Having chosen her quotidian patterns from these exclusively feminine magazines, Trockel then mechanically inputs them into computer-controlled machines, which in turn produce the final knitted picture. This wool is then stretched over a canvas, a process that both mimics and brings to light the privileged status that is accorded to painting in a male-dominated domain. In doing so, the homely craft of knitting becomes mechanised and the feminine is blurred with the masculine, presenting the viewer with an art that is neither superior to, nor exclusive from, gender constructs.

The repeating single motif of the skull in O.T. (Death’s Heads) playfully draws upon both the aesthetic and subversive nature of Pop Art. As critic Elisabeth Sussman elaborates, “Trockel’s knit works are parodies, a gentle form of aggression for turning the Constructivist notion of art into life and life into art, into a Warholian debunking of contemporary art practice” (ibid., p. 33). Symbolically loaded, the rich emblem of the skull conjures up powerful art historical identities from the talismans of tribal Aztec art, to contemplative vanitases and, perhaps most notably for Trockel, Andy Warhol’s duplicating, vivaciously coloured skulls. By repeating the skull as a potent symbol of death the artist both magnifies and desensitises our awareness of mortality. Similarly, this motif at once represents both everybody and nobody: devoid of the vital coordinates of facial individuality the skull possesses an uncompromising universality. Having studied religion before turning to art, the rare appearance of skulls in Trockel’s oeuvre, like those piquantly figured in O.T. (Death’s Heads), is all the more poignant, representing the artist simultaneously looking subjectively back and objectively forward.