Lot 23
  • 23

David Hammons

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • David Hammons
  • Untitled (basketball drawing + stone)
  • signed and dated 06 on the reverse
  • graphite and dirt on paper in a gilt wood frame, with stone
  • overall: 99 3/4 x 62 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. 253.4 x 158.7 x 52 cm.


Acquired by the present owner directly from the artist


London, Skarstedt Gallery, In-Between, June - August 2013


This work is in excellent condition. The drawing is mounted at intervals to a fabric covered mount and framed under Plexiglas in a gilded wood stepped frame. The left and right edges of the sheet are deckled as is to be expected from the nature of the artist's process. The stone boulder is a found object as intended by the artist.
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

Profound and poetic in its poised stature and riveting grandeur, David Hammons’s Untitled (basketball drawing + stone) from 2006 is a sublime touchstone from the artist’s conceptually inventive career. Soaring toward nearly the same height as a regulation basketball hoop, this work consists of paper mounted in a gilt wood frame and balanced atop a jagged stone, its weight slightly teetering both precariously and gracefully to the side. The spectral chiaroscuro impressions on the paper were made by the artist's repeated bouncing of a basketball—first covered in dirt from the grounds of Harlem—against the work’s surface. Resulting in a bewitching atmospheric haze rife with kinetic dynamism, Hammons’s Untitled (basketball drawing + stone) taps into a tradition of gestural expressionism while concurrently challenging contemporary perspectives on social history. Like Pollock, who often placed his canvases on the studio floor to fling paint at the surface of his pictures, Hammons’s process of dribbling a basketball on the paper presents a radical gesture whose performance is forever embroiled thrillingly in the resulting image.

Hammons began making art surrounding the racially charged theme of basketball in the early 1980s, beginning with seminal performances such as Human Pegs/Pole Dreams and continuing through to his 1987 Public Art Fund installation Higher Goals in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza. For Hammons, basketball represents not the direct path to enlightenment for young disenfranchised African-American youths as is regularly espoused; rather, Hammons’s sculptures corrupt this ideal, instead revealing an exploitative myth below the surface. In describing Higher Goals, a group of five sculptures composed of bottle cap-studded telephone poles mounted with basketball backboards, hoops, and nets, Hammons noted, “It’s an anti-basketball sculpture. Basketball has become a problem in the black community because kids aren’t getting an education. They’re pawns in someone else’s game. That’s why it’s called Higher Goals. It means you should have higher goals in life than basketball.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, P.S.1 Museum, David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, 1991, p. 29)

Adopting the iconographic lexicon of formal abstraction in the ethereally beautiful fields of quiet cloud-like gray, Hammons’s Untitled (basketball drawing + stone) transforms the energy of the street into high art. Propping up the drawing with a mount of rubble, Hammons grounds the entire work in the reality of the earth, transporting not only the accumulated dirt into the language of abstraction, but also utilizing a process of application that draws its source from the quotidian urban tradition of the sport. In so doing, he injects the work with an extreme exuberance that reverberates through its elegance, tapping into a tradition of radical art historical critique that exhilaratingly challenges contemporary modes of thought.