Lot 35
  • 35

Adrian Ghenie

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Adrian Ghenie
  • The Fake Rothko
  • signed and dated 2010 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 200 by 200.6cm.; 78 7/8 by 79in.


Galerie Judin, Berlin

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Berlin, Galerie Judin, The Hunted, 2010


Juerg Judin, Ed., Adrian Ghenie, 2013, p. 101, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the illustrated catalogue is fairly accurate, although there are more underlying pink tonalities in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"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

Exploring the historical and the personal in an entirely novel way, Adrian Ghenie’s The Fake Rothko is a richly textural and intellectual example of the artist’s uniquely integrated material approach to picture making. In the present work deft strokes of oil paint pick out a figure seated against a tantalisingly visceral wall that has been lavished with great smatterings, drips and splashes of succulent oil paint, recalling the textured surfaces of Ghenie’s celebrated installation of the same year, The Dada Room. Raised in Romania, Ghenie only turned to painting in earnest in 2006 with a series of black and white works that sought to illuminate the gap between fact and subjective memory. The artist’s move to colour in 2007 has imbued his practice with an inflected elasticity, a widened emotive scope that is expressively explored in the rich crimsons, violets and verdant hues in The Fake Rothko. Executed in 2010, the same year as the artist’s important exhibition The Hunted at Galerie Judin, Berlin, in which the present work was included, Ghenie’s art has been propelled in an extraordinary manner onto the international stage and can be now found in the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent.

Entitled The Fake Rothko, the present work is a deeply personal reworking of the story of Saint Anthony of Egypt, the saint who the devil sought to tempt and seduce whilst in the desert, the archetypal biblical tale of will power put to the test. This theme has inspired a plethora of artists throughout art history from Michelangelo to the dazzlingly surreal musings of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, in The Fake Rothko, however, Ghenie confidently diverts from tradition. Speaking about the recent leitmotifs of seduction and the devil in his work, Ghenie remarked: “I imagine that the devil will tempt me as Mark Rothko – all this when you are so attracted to someone because of his work” (Adrian Ghenie quoted in: Mark Gisbourne, ‘Baroque Decisions: The Inflected World of Adrian Ghenie’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Galerie Judin, Adrian Ghenie, 2010, p. 39). Indeed, the viewer is immediately drawn to the incandescent Mark Rothko painting with its distinctive blurred blocks of luminescent red and purple hues at the centre of the work. Juxtaposed with the sublime, transcendent surface of the Rothko is the contorted, writhing face of a figure vomiting. Confirmed by Ghenie’s Self Portrait no. 4 of the same year, a painting that features an identical figure, the man in front of the Rothko is Ghenie. Ghenie’s identification with Saint Anthony, however, is not religious; it rather calls into question the notion of how he should appropriate and revivify the work of artists to whom he is attracted. Playfully multilayering cultural and historic references, the convulsing artist could also be a biblical pun that cites the Proverbs: “like a dog who returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly”. The Fake Rothko appears to glory in abject expulsion and is perhaps indicative of the future torment of an artist who is ‘fake’, who is tempted and seduced by art historical tradition, or in Ghenie’s case Rothko, and does not carve out his own trajectory. A field of tantalising yet intellectually considered clues; The Fake Rothko constantly intrigues the viewer with its open-ended set of internal and external meanings.