Lot 3
  • 3

Rudolf Stingel

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Rudolf Stingel
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 2005 on the reverse
  • oil and enamel on canvas
  • 82 1/2 x 66 3/4 in. 209.5 x 169.4 cm.


Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Private Collection, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2011


This painting is in excellent condition. Under ultraviolet light there are no apparent restorations. The canvas is not framed.
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

Carefully yielding a delicate interplay between the luminous transparency of a reflective mirror and the muted density of opaque velvet, Rudolf Stingel’s enrapturing Untitled is undeniably one of the most striking expressions of the artist’s highly coveted series of wallpaper works. Created in 2005 and signifying a turning point in the painter’s prolific career, this charismatic piece  expounds a shimmering and contrasting pattern that witnesses a curiously hybrid myriad of styles.  Melding both superfluous ornamentation and frivolity with a strict sense of geometrically guided repetition built through industrialized processes, Stingel’s nuanced references to the decorative styles of the Italian Baroque and French Rococo deftly contribute to his overarching concerns regarding the fusion of pictorial and architectural space. Stingel’s Untitled is a captivating testimony to the artist’s profound expansion of the definition of painting.

Penetrating the heart of the New York art scene in 1987, Stingel entered an environment dominated by a dichotomy of dual aesthetic trends.  Eschewing reactionary minimalist and neo-expressionist tendencies, the young artist pioneered a process-focused approach to painting through the creation of his lustered silver monochromes. In 1989 he released his seminal Instructions: a limited edition art book that outlined the complex process by which his iconic enamel works could be replicated. By codifying his technique with a democratic release into the public sphere, Stingel’s critique demystified studio process and subverted notions of authorial genius in favor of a sense of industrial manufacture and mechanized labor akin to Warhol’s Factory.

Created by applying paint through a fine and detailed stencil, Untitled extends Stingel’s pioneering industrialized processes by providing an imprint or trace of a predetermined referent. Addressing the inherent nature of painting, it makes permanent a past presence now removed. Stingel conceptually outsources authorship to a visual mode that evokes the opulence of Rococo and Baroque designs which were once harnessed to create luxurious damask wallpapers with cut-velvet floral forms. The grandeur of damask became more cheaply imitated through the emergence of Flock (powdered wool) wallpaper from the mid-Eighteenth Century. With the industrial revolution and the development of sophisticated production technologies, the increased ubiquity of such papers led to a gradual degradation of their grandiosity, eventually transitioning to kitsch associations in the Twentieth Century. The relentless replication of forms exploits a sense of artifice to an enigmatic degree.  Converse to modernist tendencies for simplicity and the cold minimalism of industrial aesthetics, Stingel engages with the history of decorative opulence, presenting stylized wallpaper as a freestanding abstract painting.

Stingel grew up in Tyrol and Vienna; a peculiar area in which an unusual blend of Rococo styles from Northern Europe blended with the Mediterranean Baroque to form a unique aesthetic language.  Here, in the Seventeenth Century, traditional Tyrolian wood carving combined with Italian stucco to create a sophisticated and theatrical hybrid style of interior decoration. Crucially, the Bavarian Rococo’s dramatic fusion produced a synthesis of architectural and pictorial space. In dialogue with Stingel’s famed carpet paintings and mirrored floor installations, the designs of Untitled evoke decadent interior schemata in which wallpapers and rugs remain unilaterally bedecked. It evidences a crucial reconfiguring of space which disturbs what can be described as “the myths of human erectness as ‘pure visuality’.” (Rosalind Krauss and Yves-Alain Bois, Formless: A User’s Guide, New York, 1997, p. 32)

The pictorialization of architectural features relates to the melding of aesthetic and experienced space that underpins Stingel’s practice. Architectural frameworks, which ordinarily confuse the visual identity of walls and floors, become merged with the subject of the painting. As noted by Chrissie Iles: “the parameters of painting and architecture are turned inside out. The traditional qualities of painting... pictorialism, flatness, illusion, composition, and autonomy... become corrupted by a new symbolic framework, in which painting metamorphoses.” (Chrissie Iles, ‘Surface Tension’, in Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 23) With a deadpan insistence on the materiality of the surface, Stingel reformulates the underlying instability of the Baroque to create a profound new space between decadence and restraint.