Lot 40
  • 40

David Hammons

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • David Hammons
  • Untitled
  • mixed media on canvas 
  • 92 x 72 in. 233.7 x 182.9 cm.
  • Executed in 2010.


L&M Arts, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, L&M Arts, David Hammons, January - March 2011, n.p., illustrated in color
London, White Cube, David Hammons, October 2014 - January 2015


Raphael Rubinstein, "To Rest Lightly on the Earth," Art in America, February 2012, no. 2, p. 81, illustrated in color (in installation at L & M Arts, New York, 2011)


This work is in excellent condition. There are scattered pinpoint staple holes at intervals to the lateral pull margins. Any tears or dust to the plastic sheet are inherent to the nature of the found material. This work 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

Archetypal of his persistent defiance of the status quo, Hammons’ immense Untitled from 2010 pointedly challenges the monumental legacy of painting. Steven Stern presents an apt distillation of this most enigmatic artist when he describes Hammons as a “projectile in the medieval armory of the art world… [who] set about finding ways to sabotage the works, to undermine this notion of a singular context and a singular dialogue.” (Steven Stern, "A Fraction of the Whole," Frieze Contemporary Art and Culture, March 2009) Here, a large canvas is cloaked in an ethereal, translucent plastic sheet scavenged from the street, which obscures the painted surface beneath. The pearlescent covering is gracefully suspended from the top edge of the canvas, gathering in elegant folds and drapery as it swathes the picture plane. The fluorescent fields of abstract color are visible only through the mediated screen of the diaphanous synthetic material, revealing a clandestine composition of garish gestural brushstrokes in a style alluding to Abstract Expressionist masters such as Willem de Kooning and Clyfford Still and contemporary painters like Gerhard Richter. Creating a tension between the distressed detritus and the painterly surface blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and explores notions of beauty and Hammons’s critical concern with the visibility and invisibility of racial politics. The resulting ruffled layers destabilize hierarchies between waste and luxury, elevating the discarded material to the realm of high art and attacking the elevated preciousness of painting. Lacerations in the industrial material expose hints of muscular brushwork while overall Hammons veils the painting from the viewer’s eye, enlisting the very material that might have been used to wrap it in the first place.

Hammons’s appropriation of the prosaic vernacular of trash and construction sites radically and blatantly challenges conventional hierarchies. Persistently forgoing the standard systems of fine art display, Hammons makes art out of the disused remnants of everyday life: rubble from the street that includes hair, bottles, bones, and bags. His ordinary objects, however, are charged with history, complexity, and narrative—this plastic sheeting is torn and frayed; discarded detritus functioning as an anti-object. Holland Cotter suggested, “If Abstract Expressionism is about the preciousness of the painter’s touch, Mr. Hammons’s arrangements of raddled plastics and frayed blankets are about the touch of ordinary bodies laboring, sweating, sleeping, trying to stay warm.” (Holland Cotter, "The Upper East Side Goes Grungy in David Hammons’s Gallery Show," The New York Times, March 1, 2011, p. C1) Hammons has lived and worked in New York City since 1974, and his experiences there have critically informed the foundation of his oeuvre, permeated by a highly charged and omnipresent cultural critique. Through the use of provocative and unconventional materials he creates art with a strong visual impact that simultaneously shocks, perplexes, and stimulates.

Dismantling the entrenched traditions of high art and its commodification, Hammons’ work calls into question the capitalist systems that underpin the established structural hierarchies of the art world. Untitled is exemplary of Hammons’ characteristically unorthodox approach to artistic methods and materials, which persistently reach beyond the conventional limits of paint on canvas through the playful use of discarded debris. Upon this painting’s first exhibition, The New Yorker praised, “With their draped membranes often touching the floor, the works have a mighty, sculptural presence to go with their visual ravishment. Hammons’s show is somehow about everything since Abstract Expressionism—his initial inspiration before he launched his long career as a conceptualist guerrilla, surfacing now and then from jealously guarded obscurity with satirical japes, at once elegant and scorching, on themes of racial and social inequality. Now he has achieved a perfect synthesis of his political animus and his aesthetic avidity… Nearly every one of these works belongs in a museum, in a room of its own. Any other art juxtaposed with it would curl up and die.” ("Review : David Hammons," originally published in The New Yorker, cited in Exh. Cat., New York, L&M Arts, David Hammons, 2011, n. p.)