Lot 3
  • 3

Rudolf Stingel

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 94 on the reverse
  • oil and enamel on canvas
  • 172.7 by 134.6cm.; 68 by 53in.


Private Collection (acquired from the artist in 1996)

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner 


Colour: The colour in the printed catalogue is fairly accurate, although it fails to fully convey the iridescent qualities and green undertones apparent in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals two stable horizontal cracks towards the left of the top edge, and two cracks, one towards the centre left and one towards the centre right, examination under ultra violet reveals that these have been stabilised.
"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

Physically enveloping in its monumental scale, Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled enfolds and seduces the viewer through its exquisite opalescent silver palette which radiates with shimmering hues. Executed in 1994, Untitled is from a group of large, nearly monochromatic silver paintings all created between 1989-94. This group of works have sensuous, rich silver surfaces that allow vibrant under-layers of red, pink, yellow, blue and grey to shine through, recalling the sublime incandescent works of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Oscillating between the faculties of abstraction and figuration, Stingel’s multifarious oeuvre employs a host of processes, textures and materials in order to question the principle issues facing contemporary painting today: high art versus low and the artist as creator. By innovatively engaging these questions in Untitled, Stingel simultaneously demystifies his technique and the aura enshrouding his art.

Artists first began demystifying art in the 1960s at the same time that Sol LeWitt published his seminal essay Sentences of Contemporary Art in 1969. Over the following fifty years artists have entirely reshaped and transformed our understanding of art and at the very forefront of this mission is Stingel. Operating within the traditional confines of painting, Stingel aims to free the medium from its boundaries by engaging with media such as carpets, wallpaper and, as in the present work, a mechanised technique. As the curator Francesco Bonami attests, "by disrupting painting's assumption of material, process, and placement, Stingel not only bursts open the conventions of painting, but creates unique ways of thinking about the medium and its reception" (Francesco Bonami in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 10).

Recalling Albrecht Dürer's sixteenth-century Painter's Manual, Stingel confounded the traditional expectations of painting by publishing a detailed step-by-step handbook, Instructions, which illustrated exactly how to make his silver paintings. Created to coincide with the artist’s first exhibition at Massimo de Carlo Gallery, Instructions amusingly detailed processes so technical that even if you were to attempt to reproduce one of his works, Stingel’s authorship would never be challenged. In doing so, the artist simultaneously demystifies the myth of artist-as-genius and masterfully overturns critic Walter Benjamin’s caveats regarding the loss of authenticity and authorship in his infamous thesis, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Indeed, as Stingel's work retains the artist's 'aura' that Benjamin claims is lost through processes of mechanical reproduction. As Stingel’s guide dictates, the present the work was created by first lavishly applying great swathes of bluey-grey paint in expressionistic brushstrokes across the surface of the canvas. Then Stingel laid down a fine layer of tulle through which he spray-painted shimmering silver paint (which was then removed). It is this final process that has bestowed Untitled with its incandescent, undulating silvery surface. Referencing mechanical processes through his publication of Instructions yet equally foregrounding the importance of the artist's hand, Untitled is the perfect archetype of how painting remains a viable and successful medium in the present age.

Entirely defying categorisation, Stingel has demonstrated that his singular aesthetic is without comparison: “Stingel is hard to pigeon-hole: the industrial procedures and mechanically produced materials he uses relate to the Minimalist tradition, while the colour, size and lavishness of his works deny this connection. Indeed in 1993, when he exhibited a huge plush orange carpet glued to the wall at the Venice Biennale, many cited its connections to the Colour Field painting of Mark Rothko” (Amanda Coulson, ‘Rudolf Stingel’, Frieze Magazine, No. 86, October 2004). In Untitled Stingel calls into question a vast weight of art history, through a work that ironically maintains an immense formal beauty despite its prescribed mechanical process.