Lot 8
  • 8

Adrian Ghenie

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Adrian Ghenie
  • Duchamp's Funeral I
  • signed and dated 2009 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 200 by 300cm.; 78 3/4 by 118 1/8 in.


Haunch of Venison, London

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2009


London, Haunch of Venison, Darkness for an Hour, 2009

Ghent, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Adrian Ghenie, 2010-11

Budapest, Mücsarnok Kunsthalle, European Travellers  Art from Cluj Today, 2012, pp. 110-11, illustrated in colour

Ishoj, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Hotspot Cluj  New Romanian Art, 2013, pp. 18-19, illustrated in colour


Juerg Judin, Ed., Adrian Ghenie, Ostfildern 2009, p. 107, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although there are stronger green and purple tonalities towards the left hand side of the composition. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals two artist's staple holes to the right vertical edge. 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

Adrian Ghenie’s Duchamp’s Funeral I is an extraordinary painting that deals with the artist’s most important engagement: Marcel Duchamp and Dada. Embodying an existential obsession for the artist, allusions to the father of post-modernism saturate his oeuvre, appearing in such works as the immersive installation The Dada Room (2010), Dada is Dead (2009) as well as in a painting of Duchamp's notorious work, Fountain (1917). Standing at the very apex of this concern, the present work is the unmitigated masterpiece, and perhaps can be considered the artist’s greatest work to date. Significantly, this piece counts as one of only two works in which Ghenie directly pictures the twentieth-century master’s likeness; in all other works he is a pervasive absent-presence in which the weight of his influence is palpably felt. Indeed, where Duchamp announced the death of painting, in the present work, Ghenie paints Duchamp’s death.

In the breakthrough The Dada Room Ghenie created an almost-life sized replica of the First International Dada Fair which took place in Berlin, 1920. Replete with the symbolically laden imagery of a German officer with the head of a pig hanging from the ceiling, in The Dada Room Ghenie subverted the movement’s anti-art ideologies by slathering viscous layers of paint in an overwhelmingly tactile manner over the walls and floors; the result is a three-dimensional reincarnation of the famous room perceived through a painterly lens. Similarly, in Untitled 209 Duchamp, which depicts the most iconic art work of the Twentieth Century – Duchamp’s urinal – Ghenie meticulously bathed an image of the infamous art-object with great swathes of sticky oil paint. A sterile artistic statement, thus once again becomes a luxuriously painterly scene.

Ghenie succinctly sums up the importance of Dada in Duchamp’s Funeral I: “The state of painting today prompted me to choose this subject. The ongoing debate about the ‘death of painting’ may be intellectually stimulating, but I think it is also anachronistic. There is enough evidence to conclude that painting is not dead. And yet, I wanted to return to the historic context in which this problem was first articulated. I view key moments and personalities of the avant-gardes like Duchamp from a great distance and from a reversed perspective. Although I recognise the liberating effects produced by the outburst of the avant-garde movements (of which I am also a beneficiary), I can’t help but notice the extent to which some of their ideas – exposed in time to manifold appropriations – have imposed themselves with such forcefulness as to become canonical. I simply want to question this state of affairs without making accusations. But I feel I have the right to see idols like Duchamp or Dada in a different light” (Adrian Ghenie in conversation with Magda Radu, Flash Art, no. 269, November-December 2009, online resource). As such, Duchamp’s Funeral I should be seen as the ultimate conclusion of both Ghenie’s conceptual and material investigations, a triumphant declaration of painting’s longevity.

Here coarse painterly brush strokes fuse with crisp ridges from the artist’s palette knife, emotive drips and insolent smatterings to form the crepuscular, imagined scene of Marcel Duchamp’s funeral. The patriarch of Dada lies in state like Lenin in Red Square or Hans Holbein’s supine Christ in The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. Ethereal swathes of titanium whites, shadowy greys and hints of purple denote his deceased state whilst a ghostly reflection of his body enhances the painting’s atmosphere of disquiet. Here figurative imagery is quite literally buried within dribbles and pours of paint, scraped and worn surfaces. Abounding with emblematic imagery, Ghenie's iconic studio chair appears in the bottom right hand corner and the Turkish rug of the artist's grandmother is luxuriously draped over the casket. It is a work that is at pains to emphasise its painterly origins, is heavy with emotion and richly encoded with the artist’s own mythology. In Ghenie’s idiosyncratic manner, the man who inhabits the coffin, Duchamp, is the artist who emphatically declared the death of painting. Meditating on the passing of ideologies and artistic revenge, Ghenie exhumes the deceased Duchamp to re-bury both him and his principles.