Lot 66
  • 66

Blinky Palermo

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Blinky Palermo
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 71; signed and dated 71 on the reverse
  • white Formica with black tape 
  • 21 2/3 x 31 1/2 x 3/4 in. 55 x 80 x 2 cm.


Lothar Wolleh, Düsseldorf
Peter Buchholz, New York
Dr. Claus Wille, Cologne
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1987


Bonn, Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Palermo, September - November 1981, p. 54, illustrated
New York, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Blinky Palermo, September - October 1987, p. 4, illustrated
Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona; London, Serpentine Gallery, Blinky Palermo, December 2002 - May 2003, p. 70, illustrated in color


Erich Maas and Delano Greenidge, Blinky Palermo 1943-1977, New York, 1989, p. 96, illustrated in color (incorrectly dated 1968)
Thordis Moeller, Palermo. Bilder und Objekte. Werkverzeichnisvol. 1, Bonn, 1995, cat. no. 148, illustrated in color 


This work is in excellent condition. Extremely close inspection under ultraviolet light shows a minute speck of inpainting to the extreme top right corner tip. This work is framed in a wood frame painted white with a small float.
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.

Catalogue Note

“Palermo’s ultimate achievement may be said to be his liberation of form and color from subordination to a greater, authorially arranged, compositional whole or from association with representational imagery. In every phase of his career, he proposed alternative methods by which, in effect, to redraw the line between real and painted space.” (Anne Rorimer, "Blinky Palermo: Objects, Stoffbilder, Wall Paintings" in Exh. Cat., Barcelona, Museo d’Art Contemporani (and travelling), Blinky Palermo, 2002, p. 51)

With its exacting economy of visual resource and pared-down duality of monochromatic fields, the present work epitomizes Blinky Palermo’s defining individual aesthetic, which bridged the gap between the semantic codes of Abstract Expressionism on the one hand and the reductive processes of the then-nascent Minimalism on the other. In a brief career, barely more than a decade long and cut tragically short, Palermo produced an oeuvre of groundbreaking significance, within which this work is a truly exceptional highlight. Executed in 1971, a thin strip of black tape bisects an expansive void of white Formica, resulting in a binary surface that distills the essence of formalism to its purest expression.

As a student at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the early sixties, Palermo was a close friend of Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Sigmar Polke, with whom he shared studios. Together, they were at the center of a burgeoning art scene marked by awakening and revolution. In Düsseldorf, there was a critical opposition to classic forms of art, thanks in large part to the teachings of Joseph Beuys, who so cataclysmically broke down barriers between material, form, content and actions; the timbre was characterized by the disruptive influence of the Fluxus movement, Performance art, and emerging Pop. As one of the original Beuysritter, or Knights of Beuys, Palermo’s move into Beuys’ class in 1964 was attended by a shift in his approach to the medium of painting. While his earlier work had tended towards figurative painting, under Beuys he became increasingly interested in the organized spatial relationship between form and color, a polarity which is manifest throughout the rest of his oeuvre.

In Palermo’s inimitable, subtractive manner, Untitled from 1971 reduces abstraction to its elementary form; to achieve the nuanced formal dimensionality of space using the commercially available materials of white Formica and black tape, without so much as a gesture of a brush mark, both signals a challenge to the lofty ideals of Modernism and a rebuke to the idea that abstraction must be rarefied and isolated from everyday experience. Like Robert Rauschenberg’s Automobile Tire Print of 1953, which saw Rauschenberg and John Cage run an inked tire over twenty sheets of paper to record its imprint, Palermo’s Untitled formally echoes the dominant black line traversing a wide blank ground while embodying Cage and Rauschenberg’s translation of quotidian banality through the highbrow lexicon of Modernist abstraction. While Richter and Polke were proposing a similarly materialist concept of art initially through their Pop idiom, Palermo’s output, crystalized in this magnificent example, quietly revolutionized perceptions of the relationships between color and object and form.