Lot 3
  • 3

John Baldessari

180,000 - 250,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • John Baldessari
  • 18th and Highland, National City.
  • photographic emulsion, acrylic, printed type and pencil on canvas
  • 13 3/4 by 13 3/4 in. 34.9 by 34.9 cm.
  • Executed in 1966-1967.


Marlene Williams, Los Angeles
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Los Angeles, Molly Barnes Gallery, John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, October - November 1968
Newport Harbor Art Museum; Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington; Palm Springs Desert Museum; Purchase, Neuberger Museum, State University of New York; Phoenix Art Museum, L.A. Pop in the Sixties, April 1989 - August 1990
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, John Baldessari: National City, March - June 1996, p. 39, illustrated in color
Los Angeles, Newspace Gallery, Joni Gordon: 33 Years at Newspace, 1973-2006: 'Good to Go', September - December 2006


Anne Rorimer, New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality, London, 2001, p. 130
Patrick Pardo and Robert Dean, eds., John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One: 1956-1974, New Haven and London, 2012, cat. no. 1967.21, p. 47, illustrated in color


This work is in good condition overall. The canvas is unlined. There is very fine craquelure evident throughout the photographic emulsion. There is evidence of surface soiling and minor pinpoint accretions throughout. There is some minor wear to the pigment of the painted text. Under very close inspection, there is cracking noted to the gesso at the turning edges with a few associated losses. Under Ultraviolet light inspection, there is no evidence of restoration. Framed in a Plexiglas box-frame.
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

John Baldessari is one of the most important artists working today and a legendary pioneer in the Conceptual Art movement. Over a span of five decades, he has contributed significantly to Postmodernist art theory through his versatile practice which includes painting, photography, collage, and installation.

18th and Highland, National City. was exhibited in Baldessari’s solo exhibition in 1968 at Molly Barnes Gallery - one of only six canvases this scale. The present work is an extremely early and particularly witty model of Baldessari's razor-sharp perennial questioning and radical re-evaluation of accepted notions of authorship, originality and aesthetic judgment. It is also one of the first instances in which the artist combines photographic imagery and text, a hallmark of his practice. Although Baldessari intentionally snapped these images without concern for how the shot was framed, driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding the camera, the image he captured is utterly picturesque; cars stream past a corner drive-thru hamburger joint, the era of post-war American prosperity in full swing. The caption painted beneath the photograph, stating the location, gives the entire composition a documentary quality. In signature Baldessari style, he challenges our ideas about what can pass as fine art. He develops a photograph onto canvas instead of paper knowing the viewer will automatically consider it more important, but commissions a sign painter to overlay the text in an effort to remove the artist’s hand, thus calling into question traditional notions of authenticity. As Jan Avgikos, professor of Art History at the School of Visual Arts in New York eloquently writes about the series, “[t]rapped in a proverbial vacuum in southern California, [Baldessari] honed the edge of banality in his work to an acute degree. Nothing exotic, or erotic, or explosive, or powerful, or iconic, or kindly, or otherwise engaging interrupts the placid calm of the phototext paintings whose singular bromide is sheer absurdity.”

Inspiring a tectonic shift in the course of art history, the present work perfectly embodies Baldessari’s emphatic statement, “The purpose of art is to keep us perpetually off balance.” His work ushered in a new generation of art and artists; Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, and Barbara Kruger – commonly grouped under the Pictures Generation umbrella – are  all acolytes of the ‘School of Baldessari.’ The critical importance of 18th and Highland, National City. is underlined by Baldessari’s decision to revisit the series in 1996. This time, infusing color into the works, the artist found vitality in the original message of his National City series almost thirty years later. The spark that prompted one of the most investigative and revolutionary repertoires in post-war American art, 18th and Highland, National City. is from one of the most critically important and conceptually daring series of art produced in our time.