Lot 107
  • 107

Günther Uecker

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Günther Uecker
  • Sintflut der Nägel - Übernagelung eines Textes von Bazon Brock
  • signed; signed and dated 63 on the reverse
  • nails on printed paper laid down on plywood
  • 89.5 by 82.5cm.; 35 1/4 by 32 1/2 in.


Galerie Ursula Lichter, Frankfurt
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1971


Frankfurt, Galerie d, Sintflut der Nägel, 1963
Frankfurt, Galerie Ursula Lichter, Günther Uecker, 1971
Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Esslingen, Galerie der Stadt Esslingen am Neckar, Uecker - Bibliophile Werke, 1983-84


Dieter Honisch, Uecker, Stuttgart 1983, p. 190, illustrated
Dorothea and Martin Van Der Koelen, Günther Uecker: Opus Liber, Mainz 2007, p. 29, illustrated
Britta Julia Dombrowe, Günther Uecker - Redepflicht und Schweigefluss, Mainz 2007, p. 167, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the background is warmer in the original and contains fewer magenta undertones. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The papertone has yellowed slightly over time and there is evidence of light oxidisation to the nails, in keeping with the artist's choice of medium. All other surface irregularities are likely to be inherent to the artist's working process.
"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

Created in 1963, Sintflut der Nägel – Übernagelung eines Textes von Bazon Brock is a seminal piece within Uecker’s famed pantheon of Nagelbilder that combines the aesthetic, conceptual, and performative qualities of the artist’s early works. At the opening of the exhibition “Sintflut der Nägel“ (“Deluge of nails”) at Galerie d in Frankfurt, the German art theorist and performance artist Bazon Brock read a text that he had written about an obese man who is no longer able to leave his bed. Simultaneously, Uecker drove nails into the very same text that was laid down vertically four times on a Masonite board. Joining into the poetic rhythm of Brock’s recital, Uecker masterfully conflated the realms of language and artwork into a conceptual performance that explores his on-going interest in the incorporation of the written and spoken word into artistic practices.

In the present work, Uecker’s continuous nailing references the breathlessness of the text which Brock wrote without a single point. Composed solely of subordinate clauses, the entangled text becomes only perceptible in its entirety, similar to Uecker’s work in which the sea of nails defines the pictorial sense rather than each individual nail. The nails burst out from the top and bottom left of the Masonite board into the centre like a flood or even a deluge that completely encapsulates Brock’s written piece. In the text, Brock refers to the obese man as being “nailed down” to the bed. Uecker’s performance thus transforms the linguistic fiction of the text into a visual reality. The hammer stroke becomes a symbolic act in the presence of the viewers and is a manifestation of nailing down the text and the obese man – both metaphorically and factually.

The performance at Galerie d brought together two important artists, each at the pinnacle of their respective fields. Bazon Brock is a leading figure in the development of performance art alongside fellow artists such as Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell, putting at its centre the radical emancipation of the individual. Brock’s texts, performances, and happenings aim at redefining the social constructs of society, an ambitious and even utopian endeavour that the artist has perennially pursued up to the present day with his influential think-tank “Denkerei” (“Thinking”).

When Uecker first conceived his idiosyncratic nail works in 1956/57, he was still a student at the art academy in Düsseldorf. In the early 1960s, the artist increasingly began to use found objects as materials for his nail performances such as televisions or sewing machines. These objects had a particularly repressive character of the past and glorified the German “economic miracle” of the post-war years. The juxtaposition of artistic practice with objects of everyday life put Uecker’s works at the very centre of the conceptual debate in art at the time. The nail subsequently became an artistic intervention and confrontation with prestige objects that had come to symbolise the increasing saturation of modern-day society, similar to the overly saturated and obese man in Brock’s story. Uecker appropriated the visual and practical implications of the nail and transformed it into a symbol of structure and reconstruction that would define his multifaceted formal and aesthetic idiom. As such, the present work is an exceptional example that displays the semiotic relationship between art and language in Uecker’s oeuvre.