Lot 114
  • 114

Günther Uecker

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Günther Uecker
  • Feld
  • signed, titled and dated 96 on the reverse
  • nails and acrylic on canvas on panel
  • 40.2 by 30.1 by 9cm.; 15 7/8 by 11 7/8 by 3 1/2 in.


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1996


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the white tends more towards a soft cream in the original Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some light oxidisation to some of the nails, and some light dust fibres have settled on some of the protruding elements.
"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

"In the beginning was the nail, which seemed to me to be the ideal object with which to model light and shadow - to make time visible. I incorporated it into my painting, and it forged a link between the works and the space around them. It protruded as a tactile feeler from the flat surface, much like a sundial. A language of light and shadow emerged from the cumulative diversity."
Günther Uecker
quoted in: Alexander Tolnay, Ed., Günther Uecker Twenty Chapters, Ostfildern-Ruit 2006, p. 72

As part of a profound aesthetic legacy that was inaugurated with his very first nail painting in 1957, Günther Ucker’s Feld presents the apogee of the artist’s most iconic innovation within contemporary practice. Through a series of oscillating metal incisions which create avenues of shifting illumination and shadow, Uecker’s hypnotic arrangement enacts a profound investigation into the effects of the dispersion of light across the canvas surface through microsculptural means. This collision of the material and the immaterial formed a key concern for the Zero group of which Uecker was a formative member. Now represented in international museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Modern, London and the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris, Uecker’s nail works, of which the present work is a supreme example, thus stand as historically significant contingents in the trajectory of modern and contemporary art.

After the initial artistic connection that Uecker forged with Otto Piene through his participation in the latter’s studio exhibition Das rote Bild in 1958, Uecker made his ties to the Zero Movement concrete in 1961. In an effort to go beyond the expressions of the contemporaneously prevalent art informel, Uecker, Piene and Heinz Mack pioneered new practices in which purity, lucidity and kinetic perceptivity stood as paramount concerns. Otto Piene elucidates, “from the beginning we looked upon the term [zero] not as an expression of nihilism or as a dada-like gag, but as a word indicating a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning” (Exhibition Catalogue, Düsseldorf, Museum Kunst Palast, 1957-1966 ZERO, 2008, n.p.). With an expressive application of white typical to such pieces, the present work’s reduced palette privileges the transformative effects of light that it enacts at its core.

Composed of an army of regulated nails, statically fixed in subtly spiralling arrangements, the visual phenomena generated within Feld invites the viewer to become an active agent, influencing the artwork’s inherent character through their positional relativity. As Uecker has explained: "when I use nails my aim is to establish a structured pattern of relationships in order to set vibrations in motion that disturb and irritate their geometric order. What is important to me is variability, which is capable of revealing the beauty of movement to us." (Günther Uecker, quoted in Alexander Tolnay and Wulf Herzogenrath, eds., Günther Uecker: Twenty Chapters, Berlin, 2006, p. 34). Caught between obsessive regimentation and a haphazard flow of varied angles and levels, the radials of nails create a both tension and dynamic motion. Redolent in its title, Feld manifests both a shimmering field of organic movement and the precariously sensitive nature of perception played out in one’s ‘field’ of vision.